The Changbai Mountains forest ecosystem is one of the best-preserved temperate mountain forest ecosystems in Asia. Since the establishment of the reserve in 1960, extensive forest fires have been excluded as a result of strict regulation and suppression efforts and thus fuels have accumulated for several decades. Due to the lack of historical fire records in the area, the risk of fire occurrence cannot be properly estimated. In this study, we used charcoal records to reconstruct the palaeo-fire frequency in the Changbai Mountains during the last 13,000 years. The results indicate that fires were frequent during 13.0-11.0, 7.0-6.0, and 2.5-2.0 calender (cal) kyr before present (BP) and from 1.0 cal kyr BP to the present. The fire frequencies are largely consistent with other palaeoenvironmental records from the study area and we conclude that since 13.0 cal kyr BP fires were more frequent at the regional scale during intervals of a weak summer monsoon, caused by a cold and dry climate and the abundance of flammable trees. Archaeological data from the study area since 3.0 cal kyr BP indicate increasing human activity, which dominated the occurrence of local fires. In addition, intermittent volcanic activity influenced the occurrence of fires during the past millennium.