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Is more of Canada burning in forest fires? New research says no

A new study of forest fire data shows that wildfires in Canada have not been getting worse over the past 60 years.

Study's author says he's not disputing climate change, just public perceptions about wildfires

The Timmins 9 forest fire destroyed 40,000 hectares in 2012 and was one of the largest fires in decades. But a new study says despite that, wildfires in Ontario have not dramatically increased in the last 60 years.

A new study of forest fire data shows that wildfires in Canada have not been getting worse over the past 60 years.

Fraser Institute senior fellow Robert Murphy looked at the number of fires and the amount of forest burned since 1959.

He says while certain areas like B.C. and the Northwest Territories have seen bad years recently, most of the country has seen forest fire activity decline over the last 30 years.

The numbers show that Canada's worst six forest fire years since 1959 were all before 2000. 

(Fraser Institute )

Murphy says this is contrary to the popular perception that forest fires are getting bigger and hotter as the climate warms.

"Obviously what's happening is there is lots of different variables at play here and the situation is a lot more nuanced than some of these stories would lead you to believe," he says.

Murphy says he is not a scientist, but an economist analyzing numbers. 

"We're not taking any particular policy recommendations here. We just want to make sure that policy makers and the public know what the situation is," says Murphy. 

"It's too simplistic to just attribute this to climate change as is typically done, because you would suspect it to be a systemic problem. But as I say, it's really just a few localized areas that had bad years recently, where the nation as a whole that's not the case."

The study shows that despite some high profile forest fires in recent years, including Timmins 9 and Parry Sound 33, the amount of forest burned in northern Ontario has been very stable over the last 6 decades. 

While wildfires in BC, Alberta, and here in northern Ontario have hogged headlines in the past few years, a new study says fires are not actually getting worse as the climate warms. We heard more from Robert Murphy, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and the author of a new study. 7:28
(Fraser Institute)

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