Verdant Creek fire changing ecology in Kootenay National Park

Verdant Creek fire changing ecology in the park

Since mid-July, the Verdant Creek Fire in Kootenay National Park has grown to an estimated 15,500 hectares in size. Over the last few weeks, Parks Canada crews have worked diligently to contain strategic areas of the blaze and are confident the fire is under control.

“I’m confident that fire’s contained to the best of our abilities right now,” said Parks Canada incident commander Jed Cochrane.

Crews have been able to contain Miracle Creek just below Wardel Gap, Island of Fires and were hoping to have Mount Shanks contained over the August 26th weekend.

“We’ve also almost extinguished the entire island of fire between the highway and the river. We’ve extinguished everything on the other side of the highway and now we’re working on this island piece between the highway and the river. It’s down to one or two smokes now, one or two hot spots left now,” said Mr. Cochrane.

While the Verdant Creek fire has burned across Simpson Valley and down into the Vermillion Valley, Mr. Cochrane is expecting to see changes to the ecology of the area.

“In some of the places it’s re-burned the 2001 fire. As a result of that we’re going to see a lot more open forest, a lot more grass in the area. So people will notice near the Simpson River trail the whole other side is going to convert into almost open grass because of the way it’s re-burned again,” said Mr. Cochrane.

For the animals that live in the fire area, they’ve instinctively moved on to different areas in their home ranges but eventually will return to the Verdant Creek fire site. With the ecology changing, Mr. Cochrane said people may even see elk that have not been around for awhile return.

“Fire is the major disturbance in the Rocky Mountains that creates habitat and so without fire we don’t get that habitat creation. So this fire will create habitat; it will support a whole wack of species going forward,” said Mr. Cochrane.

One of the greatest challenges of this fire that has been contributing to the future changes in the ecology is that the fire is deep burning due to dry conditions.

“What that means is everything is available to burn, so crews are challenged in some locations with really deep ash pits,” said Mr. Cochrane.

According to Mr. Cochrane crews are in good spirits seeing their hard work in these areas paying off. He went on to say that fires like this never really end, they just fade away. Crews will slowly start decreasing in numbers, with those left mopping up the fire and watching until fall and winter conditions take over.

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