Trish Barnes/For the Townsman
If you see smoke in the sky east of Fort Steele on Wednesday, April 30, don't worry: If conditions are right, crews will be conducting a low-intensity prescribed burn on Brewery Ridge.
The burn will be conducted by Wildfire Management Branch, in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration Program.
The 190-hectare site on Brewery Ridge is just north of the two-kilometre marker on the Wildhorse River Forest Service Road. This site has received pre-burn thinning treatment and is a high-priority for ecosystem restoration because it's vital Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep habitat.
Crews from Wildfire Management were on site last week to conduct test burns. The burn this week will be ignited only if weather conditions meet B.C.'s smoke control regulations and if ground conditions allow fires to be managed safely.
Historically, the forest in the Rocky Mountain Trench was renewed through frequent, low-intensity ground fires. Such fires removed the shrubby understory and created a relatively open forest with large, healthy trees. The exclusion of fire from the landscape over recent decades has increased the fuels that contribute to the risk of more intense and damaging fires, and reduced the amount of open grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Trench. Combined with other factors, the resulting forest ingrowth has caused an overall deterioration in wildlife habitat, cattle forage and forest values.
The reintroduction of low-intensity ground fires to these forests is intended to maintain and restore what ecologists describe as a "fire-maintained, Douglas fir, fescue grass community," which is natural for these sites.
These fires are part of an ongoing restoration program administered by the provincial government.
For more information, visit www.trench-er.com.