Smoky skies in the BC Interior are the result of several large forest fires, including the Entiako Lake fire in the northeast corner of Tweedsmuir Park. The smoke from these fires has drifted down the coast to Bella Coola, east to Prince George and as far south as Kamloops.
(Photo taken from Scout Island)
The Entiako Lake fire is currently estimated at 6,120 hectares. It is a "modified response" fire, which means that the fire is being allowed to burn and expand in some areas to help restore ecosystems where no resources are at risk.
However, the Wildfire Management Branch is taking care to protect any nearby values. Fire crews have safeguarded several cabins by setting up structure protection units (industrial sprinklers) and are currently working to stop the fire's spread toward the east. They have widened an existing road and will be burning off forest fuels between the road and the main fire to block its advance.
If weather conditions remain favourable, 21 firefighters and a fire ignition specialist (burn-off supervisor) are scheduled to perform this controlled burn over the next few days. It will be ignited from the air and by hand.
Firefighting crews, aircraft and heavy equipment will be on site to ensure that the fire does not spread past the fireguards that crews have established.
More information about the Entiako Lake fire is available online at: http://bcwildfire.ca/hprScripts/WildfireNews/OneFire.asp?ID=466
Fire renews and restores habitats by thinning the forest cover and enhancing the growth of grasses and shrubs. This results in vegetation of different ages and types, offering a mix of habitats for many species of insects, mammals and birds. Some threatened species, such as badgers, require open forest and grassland for survival. It also creates a more resilient forest that can better respond to disease and insect infestations.
Fires release nutrients that are locked up in slowly decaying logs and other organic material. The enriched soil then stimulates new growth and improves the nutrient content of new vegetation, which is an important food source for wildlife.
Some trees and shrubs have evolved to depend on fire to reproduce. One example is the lodgepole pine, which has cones that are sealed by resin. Heat from a fire melts this resin and releases the seeds from the cone.
Trees like western larch, Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine have bark that is so thick it insulates the living tissue and allows them to survive surface fires. Fire occurs naturally in stands of these trees every five to 20 years, keeping the forest floor relatively clean of combustible material. This reduces the possibility of more severe fires that burn hotter and may damage soils or kill these trees.
Fire can open up a thickly treed forest, letting in sunlight to encourage the growth of shrubs and grasses that are forage for wild and domestic animals. Without periodic fires, sunlight-loving trees such as ponderosa pine give way to shade-tolerant trees such as Douglas fir, changing the diversity of the forest.
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