Large wildland fires are major disturbances that strongly influence the carbon cycling and vegetation dynamics of Canadian boreal ecosystems. Although large wildland fires have recently received much scrutiny in scientific study, it is still a challenge for researchers to predict large fire frequency and burned area. Here, we use monthly climate and elevation data to quantify the frequency of large fires using a Poisson model, and we calculate the probability of burned area exceeding a certain size using a compound Poisson process. We find that the Poisson model simulates large fire occurrence well during the fire season (May through August) using monthly climate, and the threshold probability calculated by the compound Poisson model agrees well with historical records. Threshold probabilities are significantly different among different Canadian ecozones, with the Boreal Shield ecozone always showing the highest probability. The fire prediction model described in this study and the derived information will facilitate future quantification of fire risks and help improve fire management in the region. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012.