Wednesday 17 April 2024


 Fire is a desirable event in some natural habitats. In fact some habitats wouldn't exist very long without regular fire.

Last Wednesday, April 10, there was a series of small fires, called prescribed burns, held at various parts of Rondeau Provincial Park. There have been quite a few open, mostly grassy areas within Rondeau. However as natural as some are, or seem to be, they did not originate as a result of fire. I have discussed this in a bit of detail such as on this blog post as well as others that focus primarily on Point Pelee NP and Pinery Prov Park, where in both cases, fire was perhaps used for perhaps the wrong reasons. You can check those posts by searching the Labels list on the right hand side of this post for those two parks.

At Rondeau, the open grassy spots or savanna habitat was not caused by fire, but by other means. Nonetheless, the use of fire as a tool to manage it for the grassy/savanna habitat is quite acceptable, and even necessary to maintain the habitat for certain grassland species of flora and fauna, some of which are at risk.

Here is a case in point. This first photo shows a beautiful grassland/savanna habitat immediately south of the campground, taken in July, 2009.

The growing conditions have been good over the years, and in October, 2023, this is what it looked like due to the absence of fire for at least a decade. Clearly it was becoming very overgrown, and some of the plants had not been seen, or were present in greatly reduced numbers at that point.
This next photo shows more or less the same area, from roughly the same vantage point, right after the burn of a few days ago. Of course the new season of growth has not yet begun, but one can hope that some of the desirable plant species will reappear.

But I am jumping ahead of myself.

I arrived on site in the late morning, and the conditions had already been satisfactory for the burn crew to get underway. The grassy site just south of the churches, near the tennis courts, had already been burned, and the crew had just completed the mopping up process.

Next was to burn two grassy areas along the north end of Harrison Trail. This first one shows the typical condition, where logs and branches from fallen trees are laying in the grass.

Before the fire is started, the crew goes over the details of the burn site, and the responsibilities of each crew member.
The fire is then lit via a drip torch.
When there is adequate dry grass, the fire goes well, causing an almost complete burn. If the fuel on the ground is mostly leaf litter, it is damper and the fire moves slowly and even misses sections.
Here is another section of the grassy area along the north end of Harrison Trail just prior to the burn.
There can be a lot of smoke....
...with little flare-ups when better grassy fuel is encountered.
After the burn.

Some folks may be concerned about wildlife, and rightly so. There are some wildlife cover boards scattered in a few places, where research/survey work has been undertaken in the past regarding some types of wildlife using the area. In this next photo, the cover boards and immediate area are watered down, to protect the boards and any critter underneath.

There were a very small number of Eastern Garter Snakes seen slithering away from the burned area.
A Five-lined Skink had been taking refuge under a log, and was seen scurrying away when the burn crew was spraying the log with water so it wouldn't burn or smoulder.

With the fire patches at the north end of the park looked after, next on the list of sites was immediately south of the Visitor Centre. After the initial crew assembly, the site was ignited.

With so much grass, the fire took off quite nicely.
A Red Cedar tree that had been the victim of storm conditions a year or so ago, but was still partially alive, was in the path of the flames....
...and ignited. As nice as Red Cedars can be in the proper place, they can be quite invasive and even eventually become dominant in prairie and savanna habitat.
Lots of smoke...
...but the fire had done its job here in fairly short order.
The crew always stays on site for awhile, checking for hot spots and such to make sure everything was under control.

After the burn, the small shrubs and other woody plants showed the desirable effects of being burned, so that they would not out-compete the desirable prairie grasses over the ensuing growing period. 

 Only time will tell how much of those prairie grasses will become evident later this growing season, but the exposed dark ashes allow the soil to warm up more quickly. The dormant grasses with their roots underground should respond favourably and show good growth in the next few months, and overall greatly improving the prairie/savanna habitat for all the creatures that depend on them.

Congratulations for the crew for doing a fine job in their efforts to promote healthy prairie and savanna habitat at Rondeau! And I should mention that one of the highlights for me, aside from seeing this prescribed burn in action, was to re-connect with several OMNR folks that I worked with or at least knew, during my pre-retirement years.

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  1. Great summary AL, and good to see you again!

    1. Thanks, Jim, and your comment reminded me that I was going to add a bit to the narrative that it was great to see several people that I had known/worked with from my pre-retirement years. I will do so shortly.

  2. I would have enjoyed being there!

    1. was fun, enjoyable and satisfying for all!

  3. So nice to see burns done with so much concern and control. Great job from the fire fighters team.

    1. Yes, the crew is well trained, as fire can be a significant hazard if not kept under control. The fire breaks put in place well before any fire, all around the area to be burned are important as well.