Wildfire: Friend or foe?
Every summer in Canada, the news is full of stories about “forest-fire season” and
how “this is shaping up to be the worst fire season on record”. We only ever see
forest fires in a negative light because so much of what we hear is concerned with the danger
and destruction that fires cause. Students need to gain a perspective on fires that includes
both the positive and negative aspects of wildfires.
This is (slightly) adapted from a lesson called “Investigative Report: Perspectives
on Fire” in the Canadian Forestry Association book “Forest Fires: Handle
with Care”. It is an excellent resource with activities for all grade levels.
Students will be able to understand positive and negative effects of wildfire and analyze positions on fire management.
Science / Language Arts / Social Studies
Interpreting, analyzing, defining, oral communication, inferring, evaluating
See the Canadian Forestry Association website for the background information. It
can be found on pages 17 and 21 of the “Forest Fires: Handle with Care” book
or PDF file.
- Go over background material on wildlife corridors with students in order to give
them a base of knowledge to use during the nest phase. This background material includes
the “Middle Springs Wildlife Corridor” and anything else that you feel
- Have students conduct library research to uncover as much about wildfires and prescribed
burns as they can.
- Have students participate in a role-play activity. Describe the following scenario
to students. You are members of a community in a forested area. Recently there was
a forest fire that came very close to the town-site (If you live in Salmon Arm, B.C.
or Penticton, B.C. or sections of northern Alberta, you know what this feels like.)
Although no serious harm was done and the fire was successfully put out, people in
the community are very concerned about the ongoing risk of forest fire to their community.
The local TV station is doing an investigative report on this topic.
- Divide the class into groups. Each group will select a role to play. Some ideas
are listed below. Discuss with the class some of the perspectives each group might
have on fire in their community. Some concerns each group might have are listed along
with each role.
- Park Manager- biodiversity, maintaining wildlife habitat, public safety in
- Forest Manager- managing the forest resource, reducing fuel load, public
- Homeowner adjacent to the Forest- natural beauty of the area, safety for
your family, insurance costs
- Timber company- access to timber, profits, company stability
- Environmental/conservation group- preservation of the environment, wilderness
- Town council- creating fire breaks around town, cost of fire-fighting, economic
- Other Characters suggested by students
Have one group be the media group. This group should prepare a general
report on forest fires and prepare interview questions for each of the
other characters. Have the other groups prepare for their interview by
answering these questions:
a) How would you feel about fire in your area?
b) Would your feel differently if it was a lightening-caused or human-caused
c) List your positive and negative views about fire.
d) What, if anything, should be done to protect your community from fire?
- Have each group present their material to the rest of the class by role-playing
the TV News report. You can videotape the role-play and replay it before the final
- Following the role-play, in large group, discuss the similarities and differences
between the groups' perspectives. Address how education about fire management may
influence some people's opinions.
Evaluation and Assessment
Option 1- After the role-play, have students regroup and choose which group
they identify with the most.
Option 2 - Have the students do a poster that incorporates all of the different
factors and viewpoints expressed during the role-play.
Option 3 - Have students design a poster where half of the class display
the positive effects of fire and half display the negative.
Canadian Forestry Association, 1999
Wildfire: Friend or foe? (Adobe PDF document)