As settlers continued to push the frontier back, fires multiplied. Land clearing, farming, lumbering, railroad construction, mining, prospecting, even hunting and fishing added to the fire hazard.
By the late 1800s wildfire was a very real risk to life, property, and timber resources. Aubrey White, the man responsible for Ontario’s forests, sent an urgent memo to the Ontario government in 1885.
“I take the liberty of drawing your attention to the great destruction of the timber wealth of this Province, which is caused mainly by the careless setting out of fire at the dangerous points in the forest during the heat of summer…”
[Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Historic Fire Information from the Annual Reports 1900-1909]
White’s concerns were echoed across Canada. He strongly suggested that a certain number of men “… to be called Fire Rangers…” should be stationed in areas where fire hazard was high. Ontario acted on White’s recommendations. In 1885, the province hired 37 fire rangers, forming the first fire patrol system in Canada.
By the early 1900s fire rangers – also called fire guardians, fire wardens, patrolmen, or garde-de-feux – were active in every province and territory.
Who were these men? What did they do? Click on the titles below to learn more about the first fire rangers.
Early Fire Patrols: through forests, mountains and prairies
Finding Fire: firefighting with pail, shovel and hoe
Preventing Fire: the ranger as teacher and lawman
Fire Rangers: measuring up to the job