A prescribed burn is underway in the Bull Mountain range near Cranbrook, and there is an area closure in effect while the burn is being executed.
The goal of the burn is to enhance bighorn sheep habitat on Bull Mountain.
The burn is taking place between Aug. 31 and Sept. 19, as long as weather and burning conditions are favourable.
The burn is being executed by the BC Ministry of Land, Water, and Resource Stewardship in conjunction with the BC Wildfire Service, and will be conducted by arial ignition using helicopters and ground crew firefighters.
“This burn is located at high elevation on Bull Mountain, in an area that is contained with natural fuel breaks (rocky mountainous terrain) and then reinforced with containment lines that were developed by a BCWS unit crew,” explained Kim Wright, Information Officer with the BC Wildfire Service. “BC Wildfire Service personnel will be igniting the burn, and stationed on the ground to monitor and manage the burn, keeping it within the pre-determined perimeter. A certified, experienced burn boss has developed the burn plan and will be leading the implementation. Aviation resources are available to support if required.”
Ariana McKay, Habitat Biologist for the Kootenay Boundary Region with the Ministry, says that the area will be closed on burn day, aiming for September 1.
“The area is within a Motor Vehicle Prohibited Area so it will not impact current vehicle access in the area. Barricades and information bulletins have been established at access points,” McKay said. “Check the BC Wildfire Service Information Bulletins for updated information.”
McKay adds that biologists for the Ministry have been preparing this burn for the past four years.
“Prescribed burning Bull Mountain aims to enhance habitat in summer and transitional ranges to support the Bull River bighorn sheep herd health (i.e., rejuvenate forage so sheep enter winter in suitable condition) and to provide safe migration routes in transitional habitat (i.e., increase predator avoidance through improving line of sight),” McKay said in an email to the Townsman.
“Fire is an integral disturbance agent and management tool to enhance habitat for wildlife. The project provides a key link to habitat enhancement work nearby. Line of sight improvement for predator avoidance and forage enhancement projects were previously completed on winter range. Prescribed burning Bull Mountain will safeguard habitat values from catastrophic wildfire; high burn severity from wildfire would render habitat ineffective. By igniting a controlled burn, the fire will rejuvenate the ecosystem without major damaging effects and will reduce wildfire risk in the area.”
Wright adds that the burn window is between August 31 and September 19, meaning the burn may not begin exactly on the 31st.
“Before doing a prescribed burn, the team has to wait for conditions favourable to a low or medium intensity fire,” Wright said.” The optimum window is dry enough to burn, but not so dry that we run the risk of the fire going outside of the predetermined perimeter.”
The BC Wildfire Service says that the burn will cover up to 500 hectares and smoke may be visible from Cranbrook, Fernie and surrounding areas. Smoke will also be visible for drivers on Highway 3.
The public is advised to respect area closures where the burn is happening. Bull Mountain is located south of the Steeples mountain range, and east/southeast of Peckham’s Lake/Norbury Provincial Park.
This project is led by habitat biologists in Cranbrook and funded by Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, FWCP and WSSBC.