P.E.I. park crews fight fire risk with fire
Cutting, burning now underway to protect Stanhope cottages, campground
There's been smoke and flames in P.E.I. National Park over the past few weeks.
Crews are cutting brush and burning some of it — all in an effort to reduce the risk of wild fire and protect the nearby homes, cottages and campground, said Arja Romaniuk, visitor safety and fire co-ordinator for P.E.I. National Park.
Crews were using chains saws along Stanhope Lane on Thursday to remove trees from a dense stand of white spruce. As a result of a risk assessment conducted earlier this year by park staff, the section of woods, adjacent to cottages and a campground, was identified as high risk.
"By thinning out the forest, it will slow down the progression of a fire should there ever be a fire here and it also reduces the intensity of a fire to make it safe for fire fighters to go in," Romaniuk said.
The practice is known as fuel modification, and is one method used to reduce the risk of wildfire, according to Parks Canada's FireSmart program.
Park workers in fire-resistant clothing were setting fire to piles of dead branches, rotting wood and underbrush Thursday. Staff kept a careful eye on the small bonfires as they crackled and blazed. Other staff used a tractor and small crane to hoist larger logs onto a trailer. The logs will be kept for future use, such as kindling and camp-fire wood in coming summers at Stanhope campground.
Romaniuk and two other staff members from P.E.I. helped fight wildfires in British Columbia this past summer. It could happen here, too, she said.
"We have had fires in the park before. They've all been small in nature and put out quickly," Romaniuk said.
Crews aren't just cutting and burning. Next spring, they'll be planting, Romaniuk said. Hardwoods, including red maple and yellow birch, will help add diversity to the plant community in the park and further reduce fire risk.
Those hardwoods are among the species once common in the Island's ancient Acadian forest.
"The added bonus is those tree species are more fire resistant," Romaiuk said. "So over the years we're building a whole forest that is more resistant to fire and more traditional for what you would expect in this area."
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