Evidence from 10 years of fire records and 300 years of tree ages and fire scars indicate that forest fires in a large area east of Great Slave Lake, N.W.T. are recurrent over a short time interval (<125 years) and related to large scale air mass climate patterns and terrain roughness. Reconstruction of fire recurrence for 3700 years from paleoecological evidence of treeline position suggests two levels of environmental dynamics. The shorter term change is related to periods of stationary fire frequency and the longer term change is related primarily to climatic change and site conversion. These two levels of dynamics are also observed in the gradient analysis of the contemporary vegetation. The gradients are fire frequency-intensity and topographic-nutrient-energy budget.