The Department of Natural Resources and Parks Canada have burned one hectare of barren land in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park this week as a step toward forest fire prevention.

The experiment is the first controlled burn in the national park and took place in the barren land between Neils Harbour and Cape North between Tuesday and Thursday.

Officials at Parks Canada are hoping the information gathered will lead to safer and faster fire suppression and will help maintain barren ecosystems by providing information on how fire burns in shrubbery and other low growth.

Jeff Weir, a project manager at Parks Canada, said the fire is part of a national program that will be conducting controlled burns across the country.


This is the first controlled burn in the national park. (Cape Breton Highlands National Park)

In order to burn the land near Paquette Lake — an area the size of 1.5 football fields — the land was divided into plots of 15,400 square metres each.

As a helicopter carrying a water basket flew overhead, firefighters stood on the outer perimeter of each plot as they were burned one at a time. It takes six minutes to burn each plot. 

Anne-Claude Pepin, a resource conservation officer for Parks Canada, is collecting information about how the fire affects barren vegetation in the national park.

"The idea is to gather some information on how fast and how intense the fire burns in the type of vegetation there. That's not very well documented," she said.

Dustin Oikle, a fire science officer at the Department of Natural Resources, said what they learn in the Paquette Lake area will benefit everyone. 

"As we move forward with more of this experimental fires we'll have data in different conditions and we'll just know what to expect when we're arriving to a fire," he said.

"It's very important if you want to keep firefighters and people safe."

Parks Canada will be developing an information fire model that they will share with other fire departments so they can all benefit from the research.