A prescribed burn is planned for the East Kootenays between now and mid-September, provided the weather cooperates. The burn is planned for three adjacent burn units in Sulphur Creek, between 1330m and 2160m elevation in the Bull River drainage north of Fernie.
The main objective of these burns, totally just over 500 ha, is to enhance wildlife habitat, particularly moose and mule deer as well as fuel reductions in this area. Plumes of smoke may be visible from surrounding areas, particularly between Fernie and Sparwood.
The area was identified as important for ungulates due to its relatively remote location and lack of resource development. In the past, the project area was more open due to the high frequency and low severity of historical fires. Most slopes were a non-uniform distribution of forest and shrublands. However fire exclusion has resulted in forest cover and tree densities in excess of what likely occurred naturally.
Fire is a natural part of forests in our region and these burns will encourage new growth of trees and shrubs that are key component to moose and mule deer habitat.
Prescribed burns are lit under specific weather conditions and work with topography and other existing natural features and human-made fire breaks to control the fire. Burning upslope toward timber line, they frequently use naturally cooler and wetter north aspects as fire guards, taking advantage of terrain features that slow fire’s spread as boundaries.
Prescribed burning allows managers to choose the best possible weather and site conditions. Fires are lit when fuel conditions are balanced between the ability to ignite a fire and have it spread at times when cooler nights and incoming weather systems help limit fire growth and minimizing impact to other resource values.
By comparison, in 2017, the large Quinn fire burned over 11,000 ha in the upper Bull River and Quinn Creek area under much hotter and more destructive conditions. Prescribed burns, such as that planned for Sulphur Ck, provide fuel breaks that helps keep wildfire, like those in recent years, in check.
The Sulphur Creek prescribed burn is funded by the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) and planned and delivered by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and BC Wildfire Service. The FWCP is in place for BC Hydro to compensate for fish and wildlife impacts resulting from BC Hydro dams. These actions are example of the high level of cooperation of natural resource managers in the East Kootenay. Their focus on ecosystem restoration, habitat enhancement and wildfire fuel reduction are part of a successful regional program.
Higher elevation burns also tie in with ongoing efforts by the Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration Program at lower elevations. Combined with previous fuel reduction programs, these burns reduce fuel loading in the event of unplanned wildfires caused by lightning or human carelessness. BC Wildfire Service is an active partner in this effort and will be present throughout.
The Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration Program has operated as a successful partnership of government, industry, First Nations, NGOs and the public since 1998.