Wildfires are a major disturbance to forest carbon (C) balance through both immediate combustion emissions and post-fire ecosystem dynamics. Here we use a process-based biogeochemistry model, the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM), to simulate C budget in Alaska and Canada during 1986-2016, as impacted by fire disturbances. We extracted the data of difference Normalized Burn Ratio (dNBR) for fires from Landsat TM/ETM imagery and estimated the proportion of vegetation and soil C combustion. We observed that the region is a C source of 2.74 Pg C during the 31-year period. The observed C loss, 57.1 Tg C yr-1, was attributed to fire emissions, overwhelming the net ecosystem production (1.9 Tg C yr-1) in the region. Our simulated during-fire emissions for Alaska and Canada are within the range of field measurements and other model estimates. As burn severity increases, combustion emission tended to switch from vegetation origin towards soil origin. Burn severity regulates post-fire C dynamics. Low severity fires increase soil temperature and decrease soil moisture and thus, enhance soil respiration. However, the opposite trend was found under moderate or high burn severity. The proportion of post-fire soil emission in total emissions increased with burn severity. Net nitrogen mineralization gradually recovered after fire, enhancing net primary production. Net ecosystem production recovered fast under higher burn severities. The impact of fire disturbance on the C balance of northern ecosystems and the associated uncertainties can be better characterized with long-term, prior, during- and post-disturbance data across the geospatial spectrum. Our findings suggest that the regional source of carbon to the atmosphere will persist if the observed forest wildfire occurrence and severity continues into the future.