Module 16: Wildfire and Your Woodland

Wildfire and Your Woodland


Fire has existed on earth since the firstvolcano erupted close to a fuel source, and since the firstbolt of lightning struck and lit organic matter. No human was there to marvel or tremble at the sight, but fie has since become central to human existence on earth.

Fire has always been a natural part of the Nova Scotia landscape. At one time it burned where it wished, completely out of any human control. It shaped the forests and grassy plains, both destroying and creating wildlife habitat. Fire shaped new ecosystems, released carbon into the atmosphere, and may have caused changes in climate.

It burned at regular intervals, raging through forests until fuel was exhausted or rain dampened its progress. The presence of high winds often led to trees being blown down. These trees died and eventually became dry, and fuel accumulated over the decades. A lightning strike in the right place was all that was needed to heat the fuel to a flash point and start a wildfire.













First peoples skillfully adapted fie for human use. Besides providing warmth and cooking heat, fie was used to harden wood hunting tools. It could also be used to drive game from one place to another for better hunting, and even to renew berry crops. Fire also provided a measure of security at night and a centre for social interaction.

European immigrants brought a profound change in the use of fie and the ways it could be used to shape the landscape. Small coastal settlements in the early 1600s likely employed fie to clear adjacent forestland for agriculture, and many of these fires probably burned out of control, extending many kilometres into the interior of the province.

The granting of land by European interests intensified the use of fe in Nova Scotia’s forests. Often the conditional granting of land carried with it the necessity to clear large acreages for agriculture, or improvements, and one of the quickest and least labour-intensive methods was simply to set fie to the forest. Charred stumps could be pulled more easily, and crops could be planted in the open areas.

Such burning was not without its hazards. Fires easily got out of control and entire settlements were burned to the ground. Dwellings and farm buildings in the path of such wildfires had little chance of survival.

The 20th century brought enormous leaps in technology, not only for mastering the use of fie but also in controlling fie in the forest. Purpose-built tanker trucks, water pumps, and earth-moving equipment were developed to combat forest fies that raged across the landscapes of the province.

Fire towers were built in the early years of the 20th century to detect wildfires and were a common sight in many areas of the province. After World War II, aircraft were employed to both spot and control wildfies, and this use of aircraft continues today. Examples of efficient modern water bombers are found worldwide.

As can be imagined, effectively suppressing wildfire is expensive. Costs of fighting Nova Scotia wildfires exceed $4 million annually.














Why Protect Your Woodland from Wildfire?

As a woodland owner, you have values that are associated with your forested property. Perhaps you value your timber resources as one of the most important reasons for owning woodland. You may also consider wildlife and their habitat to be a primary motivation for managing your woodland. Recreation, in the form of walking, riding, or hunting, could be an important value to you. Or perhaps you relish the opportunity to visit your woodland just to get away from the bustle of everyday life. No two landowners are alike and your ownership values are unique because they are yours.

One thing is certain: A wildfire can, in a few short hours, affect your woodland in ways that may cause you to change your values and the ways in which you manage and use your woodland. Preventing wildfire is the easiest way to manage wildfire on your woodland. For this reason, it’s important to understand how wildfires may start and spread.

This module will help you, the woodland owner, to learn how to prevent wildfies on your property, and what to do if a wildfie starts despite your best preventive measures. While fie departments and Department of Natural Resources staff excel in fighting woodland fes, this module will also outline the steps you should take until fiefighters arrie, including fightin small fies on your own.