Nova Scotia

Parks Canada sets fire at Fortress of Louisbourg site

Parks Canada conducted a prescribed burn at the Fortress of Louisbourg on Friday to protect buried archaeological objects on part of the site.

Prescribed burn happened Friday afternoon

Part of the grounds leading to the Fortress of Louisbourg in Cape Breton went up in flames on Friday, on purpose. (Coady Slaunwhite/Parks Canada)

Part of the grounds leading to the Fortress of Louisbourg in Cape Breton went up in flames on Friday, on purpose.

Parks Canada scheduled the prescribed burn at the national historic site in order to protect historic objects buried on site.

"The vegetation growth, primarily the alders, the root system is breaking through the archeological features," said Maura McKeough, a cultural resource manager for Parks Canada.

"Our cultural resources, which are irreplaceable, would be destroyed — and as well the cultural landscape of the area is also a concern, that would be sort of obliterated. This is more of a preventative conservation tactic, leaving behind a legacy for other generations."

The burn took place on 35 hectares along the north shore of the site, leading to the walled reconstruction.

Weather conditions key

Prescribed burns have been done at the fortress before, although one scheduled for 2012 had to be cancelled because conditions weren't right.

There was a prescribed burn on the north shore of the Fortress of Louisbourg on Friday. (Fortress of Louisbourg)

McKeough said weather conditions are critical, but timing is also important.

"A prescribed burn is strategic, it's a very controlled burn and if all the prescriptions aren't met, then the fire can't be ignited" she said.

"On the north shore we have common species of birds nesting so we want make sure that we have the prescribed burn before nesting begins but also weather is a major consideration."

McKeough said the northwest wind forecast for Friday means the fire will burn toward the harbour.

Parks Canada will have a crew on site throughout the burn to make sure it's done safely.

"We have our fire management team that's come in from Eastern Canada and from Central Canada area as well as local responders," said McKeough.

"It's also a training opportunity for our fire management team, they'll be monitoring the rate of speed, the intensity of the fire, those types of things. This evening we'll gather together and the team will look at what worked, what didn't work, and what lessons there are to be learned."

The burn began at 1 p.m. AT and is set to go until 6:30 p.m. AT.

The site will be open to visitors today, although there will be an alternate route into the fortress for part of the day.

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