For the last decade the Kimberley Nature Park Society has been working with the City of Kimberley and its consultants and contractors to reduce the risk of a catastrophic wildfire in the park. After putting up stiff resistance to proposals for clear-cut logging some years ago, we settled on a plan to use small-scale hand treatments to modify the forest structure. These treatments involve slicing and dicing smaller conifers and downed woody debris, heaping them into piles and then, when conditions are right, burning the piles. It is still a bit messy, noisy and smoky, but we have managed to thin significant areas of the park in a way that has received positive feedback from most users.
Fuel treatment work is currently taking place on the hillside between the Army Road and the Nordic ski area, and with a few centimetres of snow on the ground the piles are now being burned. The snow and cold temperatures are keeping the fires from burning out of control, but occasionally fire will creep into the organic layer on the forest floor and travel some distance before it goes out.
We recently had such an escape near Myrtle Junction. The smoldering fire made its way from a burn pile into the trunk of a mature spruce tree that had been damaged by age and insects. The fire worked its way up inside the trunk and weakened the tree to the point of collapse. Fortunately, it fell away from the trail and caused no damage to people or park infrastructure. We took some pictures of the tree shortly after it started burning, and then came back the next day to find it lying on the ground, with the stump still smoking. We hope that this kind of occurrence will be a rare exception and that most of the pile burning will not damage mature trees.
If you see other examples of fire escaping burn piles and damaging vegetation, please let us know so we can bring it to the attention of the city’s consultants.
On Nov. 17 a smoldering fire escaped its burn pile and crept around a mature spruce tree.
The fire found its way into the trunk through damaged bark at the base of the tree.
We saw smoke pouring out of woodpecker holes, indicating that the core of the tree was burning.
On Nov. 18 we returned to find that the tree had collapsed from internal burning.
The mature spruce tree now lies on the ground at the bottom of the hillside.
The stump continued to smolder for some time.