The BC Wildfire Service will be undertaking a prescribed burn on the Canadian Forces Base at Rocky Point starting Friday to help with land management.
The Rocky Point burn site is 13 km southeast of Sooke, and it will take place over 50 hectares. The burn is part of a program by the Department of National Defence, BC Wildfire Service, Natural Resources Canada, and Parks Canada.
BCWS says prescribed burns have taken place at this location since 2017.
“Prescribed burns are really as you can see, low intensity,” said Cain Van Cansand, environmental dfficer with DND.
The controlled burns help mitigate wildfire risks and restore ecosystems in the area such as the Garry Oak species. Officials say that invasive plant species such as Scotch Broom and gorse make it difficult for the Garry Oak species to thrive.
Protecting the species is one of the few goals of this program.
“Protection of species of at-risk, rare species and restoration of critically endangered Garry Oak ecosystem without our coastal Douglas Fir forest here,” said Van Cansand.
Herbicides and chainsaws were used in the past to fight against invasive species, but burning the fields is what ultimately helps destroy invasive species while protecting local ecosystems.
“[With] a fire, we can treat a very large area in a short period of time, and the oak, and the big Douglas Firs, and all of the organisms that we want to protect in this community,” said James Miskelly, forestry officer with Natural Resources Canada.
“They’re OK with that because they evolved with fire over thousands and thousands of years.”
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The remaining burnt land also gives space for the military. Van Cansand says removing the invasive species allows the landscape to be opened up for training purposes.
“A lot of these Garry Oak meadows were probably about eight feet high, and gorse and broom and other invasive species. So that’s very difficult for training those areas.”
The third goal of the burning is give researchers more data on wildfires. Using data from controlled burns in Australia, fire researchers are setting off burns to observe fire behavior in open fields and closed forests.
“Interestingly, what we have here is a transition from open grassland to closed conifer forests with kind of a savanna of oaks and some large Douglas Firs in between. So we’re comparing spread rate and fire intensity out in the open grass as well in the pak savanna,” said Daniel Perrakis, fire research scientist with Natural Resources Canada.
More research is still needed in Canada to create accurate prediction models that’ll be used for future wildfires.
The controlled burns are expected to complete in October.