Banff National Park of Canada

2003 Prescribed Burn Summary

Prescribed Burn
Prescribed Burn
© Parks Canada

The spring prescribed burn took place between April 1 and June 7, resulting in 3882 ha of burned area, or 60% of the burn objective.

Flare-ups of smouldering remnants from the prescribed burn - referred to as holdovers - burned an additional 350 ha in July.

In August, park fire officials ignited another controlled burn in the Fairholme unit to contain the holdover fires and to reduce smoke impacts. Approximately 1068 ha were added to the burn area.

In total, the spring and summer burns covered 5300 ha. Parks staff are pleased that the objectives set out for this prescribed burn program have been met in terms of wildlife habitat renewal, mountain pine beetle control, and wildfire risk management.

Watch Your Step!

Landscapes recently impacted by fire pose hazards not always visible to the traveller's eye. Please respect the Fairholme Range Ecologically Sensitive Site voluntary closure in order to protect both yourself and this unique, vital ecosystem.

Map of Fairholme Range Prescribed Burn to August 16, 2003, showing 5,300 hectares burnt.
Fairholme Range Prescribed Burn to August 16, 2003, 5300 hectares
© Parks Canada
Burn Activities

Main Fairholme Range:

  • guard burning along Carrot Creek, Johnson Lake, and the Trans Canada Highway
  • low-intensity burning of surface fuels to protect Douglas fir trees, cultural resources, and wolf denning sites
  • meadow regeneration to the north and east of Johnson Lake
  • mountain pine beetle control on slopes from Carrot Creek to Johnson Lake

Two Jack East / Stewart Canyon:

  • guard burning and fuel reduction along Two Jack Canal, Two Jack Main Campground, Lake Minnewanka Day Use Area, the power line, and the Lake Minnewanka Road to Johnson Lake
  • Douglas fir tree protection
  • high-intensity burning of mountain pine beetle-attacked trees
  • aerial ignition in pine stands east of the Cascade River
  • regeneration of sheep habitat

Devil's Gap:

  • guard burning near the park's north boundary
  • wildlife habitat renewal

Upper Carrot Creek / South Ghost Pass:

  • guard burning near the park's east boundary
  • regeneration of sheep habitat

Carrot Creek Fire Break:

  • slash pile burning
  • burning in previously-thinned areas
  • reinforcement of fire break between prescribed burn units and Harvie Heights

Two Jack West and Penstock: not burned

Mountain Pine Beetle

  • Over 1800 beetle-attacked trees were removed by logging equipment or cut and burned on-site.
Fire Information Trailer
Fire Information Trailer
© Parks Canada

Fire Information Trailer - located at the Cascade Ponds Day Use area, the trailer opened its doors on April 18 and hosted 600 visitors, including three classes from Banff Elementary School. Manned by knowledgeable Parks Canada and Friends of Banff National Park staff, the trailer provided current updates and displays on the Fairholme Range Prescribed Burn program, the Parks Canada Fire Management program, and the mountain pine beetle.

Website - a new Fairholme Range Prescribed Burn section was set up on the Banff National Park website with background information, updates, and maps on the prescribed burn.

Media - the prescribed burn generated considerable media coverage in the form of radio, television, print and documentary interviews and articles.

Prescribed Burn Trivia
  • Number of Burn Days: 14
  • Number of Fire Personnel Involved: 150
  • Co-operating Organizations: 5 federal agencies, 3 provincial agencies, 3 utility companies, 7 private contractors
  • Amount of Hose Line Used: 8.5 km
  • Cost: $180 / hectare as compared to approximately $3000 / hectare for wildfire response
Wacky Weather?
  • Spring prescribed burns are planned so that extended rains of June and early July will extinguish hotspots. In 2003, the anticipated rain did not come.
  • The summer of 2003 was the third driest in Banff since1890. A total of 79 mm of precipitation fell during the months of June, July, and August, well below the 167mm average.
  • Banff went without any rain (i.e., less that 2 mm) for 43 consecutive days and was in extreme fire hazard for 45 days (compared to a yearly average of 7 days).
What's Next

Post-burn monitoring will include mountain pine beetle population growth and dispersal patterns; survivorship of old-age Douglas fir; infrared satellite imagery of fire severity; actual versus predicted fire behaviour; and air quality.

The fire events in western Canada in 2003 are reminders that we need to act now to reduce forest fuels near our communities. Parks Canada is working with the Town of Banff and the Province of Alberta on a fuel reduction plan.. Forest thinning and prescribed burning will be conducted as part of this multi-year project.

Safety in Burned Areas
Burnt Forest
Burnt Forest
© Parks Canada

Landscapes recently impacted by fire can be intriguing, but they pose dangers that are not always visible to the traveller's eye.

This new landscape is in transition; burned trees continue to fall, and roots and ground surfaces still smoulder and shift, creating unstable pockets under the soil surface that we can't see. Be aware of these hazards and choose rest locations that are free of burned timber. This is particularly important during windy periods.