Nova Scotia

Parks Canada scrubs controlled burn in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Parks Canada says the controlled burn scheduled for the Warren Lake area, near Ingonish, to better the habitat for red oak and white pine trees has been cancelled due to poor burning conditions.

Conditions were unfavourable for planned fire in the Warren Lake area, near Ingonish, this week

A firefighter ignites a small test fire in Warren Lake, near Ingonish. (Submitted by Parks Canada)

Plans to burn a portion of Cape Breton Highlands National Park have been scrubbed for at least the rest of the year due to unfavourable conditions.

Parks Canada abandoned its plans on Thursday two days after setting a test fire in the Warren Lake area. That fire burned for approximately 30 minutes before being extinguished.

The Warren Lake area, including Warren Lake Road, Warren Lake hiking trail and Mary Anne Falls, has been closed to the public since Monday.

Anne-Claude Pepin, a resource management officer with Parks Canada, said conditions appeared ideal to set the fire, with low winds and a low forest-fire index. This type of controlled burn can only happen after the snow melts and before leaves appear on the trees.

She said the event was carefully planned with lots of resources in place to control it. That included two helicopters.

Ground too wet

However, it was determined moisture in the ground would have prevented the fire from having the desired effects on the topsoil.

"The weather for the next several days is not expected to meet the prescribed conditions for this fire," said Pepin. "So the decision was made this morning to start removing the fire equipment from the site."

She said controlled fires are used to restore the ecological integrity of the forest. The main goal for this fire was to encourage regrowth of two tree species.

"After a fire, red oak and white pine will resprout more aggressively," she said.

Firefighters observe a test fire in Warren Lake. Plans for a major fire in the area have been scrapped. (Submitted by Parks Canada)

When the planned fire was first announced, CBC received calls expressing potential harm to animals and birds.

Jed Cochrane, a Parks Canada official, said an environmental assessment of the area to be burned revealed 79 bird species.

"Of those 79, only nine species were found to nest in places that would be impacted by the fire," he said. "And those nine species are all common to the area and are known to adapt to fire."

Cochrane said the adult birds of those species would have adjusted and moved to another location nearby to have their second brood. 

"Commonly in nature bird species will lose their first set of chicks," said Cochrane. "That happens with predators, or frost or fire, so they're well adapted to having a second set."

No planned fire in 2018

Pepin said it is too early to determine if the fire will be rescheduled next year.

The trails and roads near Warren Lake closed in advance of the planned fire are expected to reopen in the next few days.

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From people around the corner to those around the world, Norma Jean MacPhee has more than a decade of experience telling their stories on the radio, TV and online. Reach Norma Jean at norma.jean.macphee@cbc.ca

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