Nipawin Fire a year later

FTLComm - Nipawin - Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Each spring, summer and fall the amount of rainfall in Saskatchewan is most widely discussed as it affects agriculture and the way this year's crop will affect the economy. But that same condition, the amount of moisture also directly impacts on more than half of the land surface of the province which is covered in forest.
It is normal reaction for most of us to think of forest fires as a negative and destructive force in nature but the reality is that forest fires are actually a natural and appropriate event that has gone on throughout the eons. Some species do not even reproduce without a forest fire.
What has made forest fires seem tragic is that the forests that burn are becoming more and more thought of as economic resources rather than a habitat or naturally occurring vegetation It is our short lives and short attention span that elevates forest fires to some horrific natural disaster. There is a natural succession in the forest as one species of plant growth follows another through a very long period of development. In time a mature forest is consumed and the process is recycled.
The movement of human settlement with their property into the forest has meant that a fire can disrupt the lives of a lot of people as well as remove their means of livelihood.
This spring we had more moisture than last year and though smoke fills the air high above us from Russia and Chinese forest fires and Alberta and Manitoba have already had some fires it was not until this weekend on Sunday night when a fire threatened the community of Timber Bay, just South of La Ronge and about two hundred residence are still in La Ronge as the danger with many hot spots is still a threat.

Last summer a fire began just across the railroad tracks in Nipawin. If you have never been to the beautiful community of Nipawin it is hard to realise what a community that is within a forest is like, but Nipawin actually evergreen forest up to and within the town. The
QuickTime Virtual Reality image on this page shows you just how close this forest fire was to the down town portion of Nipawin. Homes and business were lost to the blaze but the town survived Two years ago a Prince Albert suburb was nearly destroyed and four years ago a portion of LaRonge was destroyed.
A forest fire (new people call them "wildfires") is unlike any other force in nature and the fuel in an evergreen forest is so explosive when things are dry that trees will almost explode. A forest fire creates its own weather with really large one producing towering cumulous clouds reaching more than thirty thousand feet straight up. In the 1980s we witnessed a massive series of fires in the Yukon and seen seventy-five foot trees twisted into enormous piles by the internal winds in a fire storm. In that particular 1982 fire (the Egg fire) the heat was so intense that the ground itself was consumed leaving behind a layer of orange clay over the bed rock. Now if you were to fly over that area you would have difficulty identifying the location. Fires in a forest are a natural occurrence and as you can see in these pictures only a year later nature is reclaiming the destruction and new growth is underway.

Timothy W. Shire


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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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