A prescribed burn was done at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve in 2013. Another is scheduled to take place in the next couple of weeks. (Citizen file)

Prescribed burn for the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve

Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 9, if and when site and weather conditions become favourable.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is working with the BC Wildfire Service to conduct a prescribed burn at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve on Maple Bay Road. The burn is being planned for an appropriate day between Sept. 27 and Oct. 9, if and when site and weather conditions become favourable.

The BC Wildfire Service will lead all operations related to the prescribed burn.

The purpose of the burn is to aid in the restoration of the native Garry oak meadow on the preserve. Garry oak meadows were historically maintained by humans through a complex system of management, which included the use of low-intensity fire. Today, prescribed fires remain an important management tool for this ecosystem type. Burns help to manage invasive plants and minimize the risk of fire caused by a build up of dry grasses and shrubs.

Burning also encourages the meadow grasses and wildflowers to proliferate in the spring. The Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve contains notable populations of rare and endangered plants and animals that rely on fire on the landscape to survive.

Prescribed burns (also called controlled burns) are very safe. The site is first prepared by mowing a fire break around the burn area, and then wetting down all mature trees and soaking the perimeter. This year’s planned burn will include five small plots (averaging a quarter of a hectare each), burned sequentially. The total active burning time will be less than two hours.

While the fire is active, BC Wildfire Service personnel will be on site, closely monitoring the progression of the burn, with fire suppression equipment on hand. It is important to note that the fire will only burn dried grasses and small shrubs. In addition, all measures will be taken to reduce and control smoke while the fire is active.

Prescribed burns have been planned at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve for the past several years during the early fall. However, as very specific weather conditions are required for a burn to occur, none have been able to take place since 2014. Similarly, this year, if temperature, wind, humidity and atmospheric venting conditions are not optimal, the prescribed burn won’t happen.

Questions about this burn can be directed to Steve Godfrey, West Coast Stewardship Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada at westcoast@natureconservancy.ca.


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