Canada — Shortly after a 200-hectare fire was extinguished in Burns Bog in 2005, invasive species, such as the European Birch, were sprouting from the blackened earth and making it difficult for the domed peatlands to heal.
Smoke rises from the site of a wildfire burning in Burns Bog, in Delta, B.C., is seen from the air in this July 4, 2016, handout photo. HO / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Today, 11 years later, the bogs natural carpet of sphagnum moss is still struggling to fully regenerate in some areas following the intense blaze which seared about a metre of peat resulting in dense populations of pine and birch trees that thrive in drier conditions and alter the unique ecosystem, said Richard Hebda, a member of Metro Vancouvers scientific advisory panel that offers advice on managing the bog.
The sphagnum is literally the living skin of the bog and it takes some time for the healing to take place, he said. It will take some time to know if its recovered. Big destructive fires are not something the bog can tolerate.
Both Delta and Metro Vancouver have been monitoring the bog since the 2005 fire, which was followed by a blaze two years later and another this past Sunday, which ripped through 78 hectares of the protected peatlands and threatened businesses at Deltas Tilbury Industrial Park.
As of Tuesday afternoon, firefighters had contained 50 per cent of the blaze and were expected to have it fully contained by nightfall, although it could take more than a week to extinguish. The Tilbury Industrial Park was fully opened but Highway 17 remains closed between Highway 91 and Highway 99.
Officials say a quick response with water bombers and concerted measures since 2004 to plug the ditches in the bog to raise the water table likely helped keep the fire from burning deep into the peat, where it can burn silently for miles and pop up in a new area.
Hebda noted that in the 1930s the bog was dominated by wet peat moss and dwarf-like pines. These days, the bog is ringed with tall pines and birch around the edges, while it has also been affected by years of peat-mining and drainage.
Its not the same as it used to be, he said. The idea with having the water table higher and longer is, even though it drops lower in the summer, the fire wont burn into the peat. There was a time when the bog was really wet, before it was disturbed by drainage and peat mining.
The Burns Bog fire in Delta was between 50 and 70 hectares in size by Monday, and 90 firefighters from a number of jurisdictions were battling the blaze.
Fire crews have made significant progress on the blaze in Delta’s Burns Bog and hope to have it fully contained by Tuesday morning at the latest. The Corporation of Delta, Facebook / Vancouver Sun
Fire crews have made significant progress on the blaze in Delta’s Burns Bog. The Corporation of Delta, Facebook / Vancouver Sun
Smoke rises above Burns Bog in Delta as a fire continues to burn, Sunday, July 3, 2016. Ric Ernst / PNG
Firefighters battle a blaze inside the Burns Bog area in Delta, July 3, 2016. Ric Ernst / PNG
Smoke rises from the site of a wildfire burning in Burns Bog, in Delta, B.C., is seen from the air in this July 4, 2016, handout photo. HO /THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Burns Bog wildfire photographed from near the George Massey Tunnel. @DYR_Photography, Twitter / Vancouver Sun
DELTA, BC., July 4, 2016 — Fire fighters continue to fight a stubborn bog fire at Burns Bog in Delta, BC., July 4, 2016. The fire listen percent contained. (Nick Procaylo/PNG) 00044020A [PNG Merlin Archive]NICK PROCAYLO /PNG
Firefighters continue to fight a stubborn bog fire at Burns Bog in Delta, BC., July 4, 2016. NICK PROCAYLO / PNG