CSA S504:19 Fire Resilient Planning for Northern Communities

In 2019, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Group published a new standard on fire-resilient planning for northern community infrastructure (CSA S504:19). Funding for the development of the Standard came from the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), as part of the Northern Infrastructure Standardization Initiative (NISI) with input from the Northern Advisory Committee (NAC).

Canada’s North is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Northern communities and infrastructure are being impacted by changing temperatures and precipitation patterns that increase the risks and impacts of devastating wild and accidental fires.

This Standard provides a guideline for planning and design of new fire-resilient northern wildland-urban interface (WUI) community subdivisions and developments only. This Standard is complementary to all other standards and codes adopted by local authorities having jurisdiction. This Standard has been developed in compliance with the Standards Council of Canada requirements for National Standards of Canada. It has been published as a National Standard of Canada by CSA Group.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Accidental wildfires are a significant threat that is compounded by climate change. Over the past 40 years, fire suppression practices, increasing annual temperatures, dry conditions, and expanding communities that interface or intermix with vegetated or wooded areas have created heightened circumstances of wildfire activity. Other weather events and natural disasters, such as severe lightning, ice storms or high winds, can also increase the risk of fire activity by adding to fuel sources, encouraging the spread of fire, or creating power outages. Changing temperatures, particularly in the winter, have led to the expanding range and populations of certain native and invasive species. This has contributed to the die-off of large sections of northern forests. These dead trees provide significant sources of fuel. The advancing tree line in many regions in the North is attributed to climate change.

Changing ecosystem conditions in many northern regions are expected to increase in the coming decades, according to climate change projections. The already high risk for wildfire across the North is compounded by shrinking ice road seasons, which requires communities to stock larger fuel supplies. The impacts of wildfire events on critical infrastructure, services, and supplies can be profound, dangerous, and costly.

The Standard provides guidance on site hazard and exposure assessments, wildfire exposure assessment, and wildfire risk assessments.

The Standard recommends that prior to implementation and planning of new subdivisons, northern communities integrate the collection of climate data into the design, development, and construction stages; this can include the collection of climate data and trends related to temperature and rainfall, and prevailing wind directions during wildfire seasons.

Identifying Actions

Fire resilient community planning, building design, and materials in northern regions are of critical importance as there are limited resources in many communities. Many northern communities, particularly isolated communities, experience slower fire protection response times and are dependent on volunteer fire departments that are called upon to respond in extreme weather conditions.

This Standard was developed to provide guidelines for the planning and design of new fire-resilient northern wildland-urban interface (WUI) community subdivisions and developments only. This Standard was prepared by the Subcommittee on Fire Resilient Planning for Northern Communities, under the jurisdiction of the Technical Committee on Northern Built Infrastructure and the Strategic Steering Committee on Standards for Construction and Civil Infrastructure, and has been formally approved by the Technical Committee.

Planning and design of new fire-resilient subdivisions and developments in northern communities should include coordination of proactive and preventative WUI wildfire mitigation approaches from all levels of government and professional expertise in land use, water resources, building infrastructure, and structural and wildland firefighting strategies.

Planning and design teams
When planning in northern WUI communities, the planning team may include:

  1. provincial/territorial/Indigenous government branches
  2. municipal and community organizations
  3. professionals in the following disciplines

The standard guidelines include: WUI site assessments and characteristics; roles and responsibilities of teams; planning requirements (including the use of climate data and implementation considerations).


The Standard provides guidance on required elements to be considered as part of the design, development, and construction stages of new fire-resilient northern wildland-urban interface (WUI) communities, including (but limited to): vegetation characteristics, terrain and topography, climate data and trends, population characteristics, building characteristics, fire management practices, community education and consultation.

This Standard should be used in conjunction with existing building codes, regulatory requirements, by-laws, and best management and construction practice guidelines. Jurisdictions with long histories of significant wildfire risk across North America and around the world include additional material and structural design measures within their applicable building codes, along with land-use planning geared towards improved wildfire resiliency in communities.


  1. This Standard applies to the external vulnerabilities of structures to wildfire within the interface zone areas in northern communities.
  2. This Standard specifies requirements for fire-resilient community planning, building design, materials for new developments, and also for re-locatable industrial, commercial, or residential structures in northern regions.
  3. In this Standard, shall is used to express a requirement, i.e., a provision that the user is obliged to satisfy in order to comply with the Standard; should is used to express a recommendation or that which is advised but not required; and may is used to express an option or that which is permissible within the limits of the Standard.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The knowledge and tools developed through the Northern Infrastructure Standardization Initiative, including the development of this Standard have facilitated the adaptation and mitigation of climate change in northern-built infrastructure, while also meeting the needs of northern communities in ensuring sustainable and quality infrastructure.