Common menu bar links

Parks on Fire

Born From Fire

In order to maximize the functionality of this page, please enable JavaScript and download the latest version of the Adobe Flash Player.

Audio Podcast 3: Born from Fire

Narrator:
Fire Communications Officer, Kim Weir

Hi, I’m Kim Weir, and this is Parks on Fire. Episode 3: Born From Fire

You are standing in a fire-adapted ecosystem. For thousands of years, fires set by lightening and aboriginal people were common on this landscape. Fire played a leading role in shaping the look and the life in this valley bottom.

Local aboriginal elders have shared their traditional knowledge with Parks Canada’s Greg Deagle.

Greg Deagle:
Parks Canada

Aboriginal people used fire in very focused, intentional ways. Instead of a general acceptance of the value of fire suppression, the traditional attitude was that free running fire was a problem only if it actually threatened people, or drove away game.

Narrator:
Fire Communications Officer, Kim Weir


Many ecosystems have evolved with fire and depend on it for renewal. By suppressing fire, we are losing the diverse types of vegetation it sustains, and important habitat for plants and animals. These effects are far-reaching, for they affect not only parks, but surrounding lands as well.

Fire specialist Dave Smith explains.

Dave Smith:
Fire-Vegetation Specialist

We have this tremendous tool that we have, and that’s a series of old photographs that were taken almost 100 years ago. And the reason I say it’s a great tool is because it showed us what our forests looked like before we started getting into suppression. And what it shows us is that in the valley bottoms, or in what we call the montane, there’s really not a lot of forest. As a matter of fact there was lots of what we call open savannah. In other words, we had lots of grasslands with small copse of trees, large Douglas firs, a little bit of Pine, lots of Aspen, but a lot of open countryside. Now with the advent of suppression, of course, we have allowed the encroachment of trees, of Douglas fir – smaller Douglas fir- of Spruce, of Pine, to the detriment of the biodiversity in the valley bottom.

Narrator:
Fire Communications Officer, Kim Weir


Today, Parks Canada recognizes the important ecological role of fire, and aims to restore fire to the landscape wherever safe and possible.
One of the ways we do this is through prescribed burning. Had you been standing here in June 1998, you would have been surrounded by a planned, low-intensity burn.

Dave Smith:
Fire-Vegetation Specialist


The goal of an area like the Jackladder area was to open up the forest. In other works what we call a crown replacing or a stand replacing fire. We want to kill all the trees, and open up the area to create the grasslands that once existed here.

Narrator:
Fire Communications Officer, Kim Weir


Fire stimulates new plant growth and contributes to a favourable mixture of habitats for a variety of animal species.

Dave Smith:
Fire-Vegetation Specialist 


We’ve been very fortunate to see what we predicted would happen did indeed happen. In other words, by having this crown replacing burn in the Jackladder area, we’ve opened up whole new areas, allowing new growth of grasses and forbs…in other words animal food. The result of which is we’re now seeing a lot more elk expanding their habitat and the result of which is not only more food, but less pressure and less overgrazing in the areas that existed before we burned.

Narrator:
Fire Communications Officer, Kim Weir


Despite the important role fire plays in maintaining habitat for a variety of animals, some people are concerned that fire harms wildlife.

Dave Smith:
Fire-Vegetation Specialist


The species that live in Jasper National Park have lived here for thousands of years. We do live in, and they have always lived in, a fire adapted ecosystem. So they too have actually adapted. Most animals do not die in a wildfire - most animals have ways to get away. Some animals (small animals) will dig underground, a lot of animals will just move away from where the fire is – move to safe areas down by the water/ into the water. And we find that very, very few animal species actually perish in a fire. What we do see though, which is quite interesting, is a lot of wildlife – especially carnivores – will wait until right after a fire so that they can move into an area. Grizzly Bears - we saw on the Syncline fire Grizzly Bears waiting until the fire was over. As soon as the fire was over, they were able to get in and take advantage of new areas that were open, to dig out roots and to go after new vegetation.

Greg Deagle:
Parks Canada


Traditional people set the forest on fire so that they could return the next year to hunt and live. Prescribed burning had a tremendous ecological and economic significance for northwestern Alberta aboriginal groups. Fire was looked upon as a creative force. A local elder once told me when the world began, there was nothing but rocks and fire - there were no trees or grass – the whole world was on fire.

Narrator:
Fire Communications Officer, Kim Weir


You’ve been listening to Parks on Fire, a podcast developed by Parks Canada’s Fire Management Team

Narrator:
This audio program was a production of Parks Canada, an agency of the Government of Canada responsible for Canada’s national parks, national marine conservation areas and many of Canada’s national historic sites. To learn more about Parks Canada, to download more podcasts and to find accessible transcripts of our podcasts please visit the Parks Canada website at www.parkscanada.gc.ca.

The contents of this audio file are the copyright of Parks Canada 2011. This podcast series is also available in French on i-Tunes as well as the Parks Canada’s website. Ce balado est également disponible en français sur i-Tunes de même que le site web de Parcs Canada. Thanks for listening.