Prescribed fire

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

A prescribed fire is an intentional fire planned and managed by fire specialists. A “prescription” describes the conditions and procedures necessary to burn safely and effectively. If the prescription is not met, the burn does not happen.

A good dose of fire for a healthy ecosystem

Why carry out prescribed burning? Fire is important to the vitality of forests, since it revitalizes their ecological integrity. It is and always has been a natural disturbance essential to the maintenance of forests. Fire recycles nutrients, helps plants reproduce and creates a mosaic of plant species that ensures favourable wildlife habitats. Without fire, ecosystems lose their precious diversity: trees begin growing in meadows and wildlife populations that prefer open spaces or young forests, such as moose, deer and bears, start to decline. Systematic fire suppression creates an imbalance and the forest ages, becomes denser and closes up: it loses biodiversity.

Lack of fire can also lead to an accumulation of dead wood, branches and other highly inflammable debris, creating conditions conducive to uncontrollable and very intense fires that can threaten people and property. Many park managers use prescribed burning to reduce the accumulation of combustible materials and thus decrease the risk of such fires.

On the fire team’s agenda

When managing a prescribed fire, Parks Canada considers weather, landscape, vegetation and fire behaviours, which helps ensure the public’s safety. Weeks prior to the fire, the project manager will monitor fire indices and weather forecasts and mobilize resources if a window presents itself.

A prescribed fire allows for the renewal of the forest and fields by reducing the quantity of combustible material, by releasing nutrients and by creating an ecosystem necessary for different plant and animal species. The prescribed fire at Warren Lake will help create adequate seedbed conditions for germination of red oak and white pine, which are relatively rare species of trees in Cape Breton and provide rich habitat to a multitude of species.

Interested in knowing more about prescribed burning?

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