Friday, May 30, 2014

FireSmart holds open house to discuss planned prescribed burn at Castle Mountain

Wildfire Technologist Stefan Best and Forestry Information Officer Matthew Anderson
Chris Davis

Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) hosted an information session on May 27 at Castle Mountain Ski Resort, primarily to review upcoming prescribed fire/FireSmart work in the area.  On hand were Wildfire Ranger Jason McAleenan (FireSmart), Forestry Information Officer Matthew Anderson and his assistant Karlie Skaret, and Wildfire Technologist Stefan Best.  They also spoke about the Alberta Wildfire app which is now available for iphone/ipad and Android, and the dangers of abandoned but still hot campfires.

Best explained his role. "I look after the prescribed burn program for the area,  the whole Calgary wildfire Management Area," he said.   "We're showing the prescribed burn area, relative to here," he added, pointing out maps that showed the prescribed burn area, southeast of the Castle Mountain Resort parking lot.

Detail from topographical map of prescribed burn area
"You can see it from the parking lot,"  added Anderson.  "What we need to do is a little more fuel modification, fixing up some of the guard area.  That's what we're hoping to do in June, and the actual burn won't be until probably September.  That's when we'll have the right kind of weather window to do the burn."

"For the fields around here, it gives it a little more time to dry out, and the availability to burn with the pine."

"Basically, we are going to go in on our guards here," he explained, pointing out the area in question on a map, "And do some hand ignition just to strengthen fire guards with hand torches.  Then we'll come in and do the main burn with a heli-torch."

Recovery time is expected to be relatively rapid."Within a couple of years, you can see the green coming back through," said Best.

According to Best the purpose of the burn is "Just to change the age stand distribution of the timber a little bit." most of the timber is 80 plus years old, and is starting to fall, break."  He said the animal habitat in the burn area was minimal, saying there's "Not a lot now, it's just too dense."

The burn is part of the Castle Vegetation Management Strategy, which is in part intended for protection of nearby housing.

A burn was done in the same area in 2010 but wasn't properly finished.  "The window ran out, it rained and then snowed on us," explained Best.   "Then we weren't able to get back until hopefully, now.  Dependent on weather."

Put out your campfires!

Anderson talked about the necessity of behaving responsibly in wilderness areas. "We just came off of the long weekend, and the same message goes out.  Folks, make sure your campfire is out," he said.  "Soak it, stir it, soak it again.  We had 99, I think, abandoned campfires on the May Long weekend."  These were still burning/hot to the touch.  "That's what our guys put on the books."  Ranger McAleenan added "They patrolled pretty hard all weekend, giving out the message, and the last day is when we found most of the abandoned campfires."

"I think in my stats nine out of ten fires down here are human cause,"  Anderson said.

Free Wildfire app

The free Alberta Wildfire app is now available for Android, and is also available for iphone/ipad.  It's an easy to navigate, providing updates about wildfires burning in Alberta.  It also includes a GPS locater, and is a quick and easy way to report wildfires toll free 24/7.

"It's a wonderful app, available for apple and android, and it gives you the wildfire hazard rating, said Anderson.  "It gives you a quick snapshot of what the conditions are, for any of the wildfire areas.  It's like an info bulletin for the public, at your discretion."

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