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Wednesday, July 25

Why are wildfires good for park ecosystems?

Why are wildfires good for park ecosystems? Hero thumbnail
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Jul 25, 2018

Why are wildfires good for park ecosystems?

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A year ago, Banff Sunshine closed to the public to help contain The Verdant Creek wildfire which was burning across the Continental Divide in British Columbia, about 2.5 kilometers away from Sunshine Village.

 

At Sunshine, we invited the firefighters into our resort. We wanted to be able to help the crew contain the wildfires. Our decision to do so allowed the 60-member crew and its six helicopters to fight the out-of-control wildfire. As the Verdant Creek Wildfire was started in a remote location, Sunshine was the most accessible location for crews to tackle the blaze.

 

At Sunshine, we were proud to be able to work with Parks Canada. During the fight against the inferno, we checked in the firefighters to Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Allowing them to enjoy quality rest after a hard day tackling the flames. By staying at Sunshine the firefighters could save time commuting from camp to the front line, which proved to be necessary to tame the fire.

 

Wildfires are a natural, albeit scary, phenomenon. In Banff National Park lighting, bright sunshine, little rain and dry conditions are common catalysts of wildfires. As scary as they can be, fires are also a natural part of the forest ecosystem and play an important role in many parks of Canada. They contribute to forest health and diversity. Here in the Rocky Mountains, forest fires have shaped the types of plant and animal species we are lucky to have around. Our landscapes also change after a wildfire. When hiking the Grizzly lake loop at Sunshine Meadows, take a moment to see the after burn left from The Verdant Creek fire. It will amaze you how sometimes nature behaves in ways we can’t understand.

 

Watch this short video to see the spark of The Verdant Creek wildfire near our resort:

 

Wildfires can do more good than harm than we can imagine. Among the different benefits, fires trigger new growth, reduce diseases and the number of pests, create new habitats, and clean out the forest floor.

 

Brand new forests

In places like the Canadian Rockies, fire is essential for life to continue. Some species of trees and plants in this area depend on fire to survive. Lodgepole and Jack Pine are some examples of trees that require heat to pop open and release millions of seeds that will be carried by the hot air to form new forests. Without fire, these species could disappear along with the creatures that depend on them.

 

Trees free of diseases and insects

Did you know that more trees die each year from insect infestation and disease than from fire? Year over year forests struggle against diseases that destroy leaves and needles, key parts to deliver nutrients to the roots. Fires keep the forest healthy by killing diseases and insects that kill the trees of our parks.

 

New habitats for animals and birds

After a fire, new trees, grasses and flowers grow from the roots of burned shrubs and trees, creating new habitats across the forests. The diversity that emerges from mature forests to recently burned areas creates a variety of habitats with food, water, and shelter for many wildlife species.

 

Cleaner forest floor

Fire removes flammable litter on the forest floor, including decaying logs, leaves and needles. It clears the weaker trees and debris, it opens the forest to sunlight, and it provides valuable nutrients to the soil. After a fire, a clean forest floor reduces the competition for nutrients allowing established trees to grow stronger and healthier.

 

Wildfires are part of the natural renewal process in most of Canada’s parks. Forests without fires mean less diversity of wildlife habitat, more susceptibility to insects and disease, and more chances of terrible wildfires in the future due to a buildup of fire fuels. Although wildfires play an important role, at Sunshine Village the safety of people is always our priority. The summer of 2017 will be forever remembered as we could support a dedicated team of firefighters to control a forest fire of such magnitude.