What is a fuel break?
A fuel break is an area where coniferous trees (trees with needles) and forest floor woody fuels are removed. These are the fuels that burn hot and fast in dry conditions while leafy trees and bushes burn more slowly. By creating an area that is predominantly aspen and grassland, a wildfire that comes in contact with the fuel break is more likely to move from rolling through the tree tops of pine, fir and spruce to a ground fire that can be easier to manage. Prescribed fire and hand thinning are used to maintain the fuel break as organic material accumulates through the years.
A fuel break may appear to be a drastic measure in the beginning, but the area will recover and rejuvenate with fresh foliage within one to two years. Coniferous forest in the park and this region is large enough that creating these small fuel breaks will not cause harm to any species. The area provides habitat that is preferred by other native species and allows them to flourish.
Waskesiu Community Fuel Break
Prince Albert National Park developed the Waskesiu Community Fuel Break (CFB) in 2001-2002. About 300 hectares of forest was harvested to reduce the risk to the townsite from wildfires.
Each spring, dead and excess vegetation is removed from a part of the fuel break using prescribed fire, an intentionally lit, controlled fire. The green grass that grows back slows down an approaching wildfire, moves fire from the tree tops to the ground where it is more easily extinguished, and provides a strategic line between approaching wildfires and Waskesiu.
Waskesiu: Reducing the risk of wildfire - Prince Albert National Park
East Boundary Fuel Break
Work on the East Boundary Fuel Break began in winter 2017. The East Boundary Fuel Break between Prince Albert National Park and Elk Ridge Resort and community, combined with the adjacent fuel break created by the Ministry of Environment’s Wildfire Management Branch in 2016, provides an important feature to help reduce the intensity of a wildfire that threatens park neighbours.
The fuel break stretches half a kilometre along Highway 264 near the East Gate park entrance and 1 km north of the highway, along the park boundary parallel to Elk Ridge, encompassing 15 hectares of forest. Other plans over the next few winters include expanding the East Boundary Fuel Break on the south side of the highway and enlarging the Waskesiu Community Fuel Break. (see map)
What can cottage and homeowners do?
While a fuel break can help reduce the risk to a community from wildfire, people can do other things to lessen the chance that the fire will spread into their communities. FireSmart Canada is a nationally recognized agency that has information and actions for people to use. For more information visit https://www.firesmartcanada.ca