Small, remote communities located in Canada’s northern forests typically operate with few local firefighting resources. They are dependent on provincial support for the management of wildfire risks. Nevertheless, some communities demonstrate strong, proactive leadership seeking to understand the risk of fire in their community and actions that reduce the risk. Partnerships with organizations like FireSmart Canada can assist communities that wish to conduct a formal assessment of their risk and develop an action plan to mitigate future losses associated with wildfires. Modest financial investments coupled with appropriately directed volunteer actions are effective in preventing a fire from entering the community and successfully avoiding what may have been catastrophic losses. The community of Wadin Bay is primarily a cottagers’ community situated in Northern Saskatchewan. The resort subdivision is located 30 kilometres North of La Ronge and counts approximately 30 permanent residents. The population increases to around 230 people in the summer months. The community was evacuated due to a wildfire in 2006. Residents had to leave the community for a few weeks and were fortunate to come back to undamaged homes. The 2006 event, however, triggered a reaction among community members who started actively thinking about the environment they live in, the fire risk that comes with it and potential actions that could be taken to better protect themselves.
In the wake of a near-miss from a wildfire in 2006, the community of Wadin Bay, Saskatchewan, undertook significant changes in order to ensure greater protection from future such fire events. The actions undertaken include investing both in firefighting resources to be used by the community as well as additional resources that could be utilized by out-of-town firefighters who may be called in to help during a wildfire event. Additionally, the community undertook substantial voluntary and community-driven vegetation clearing practices to help reduce the likelihood of fire transmission within the community’s boundaries, particularly near vulnerable and high-value areas. Not only did these efforts make Wadin Bay the first community in Saskatchewan to be officially labelled a FireSmart community, they also proved to be highly effective when the community was struck by a wildfire in 2015, but suffered minimal losses, largely attributable to the changes made in response to the 2006 fire.