Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fighting fire with fire

It's the dead of winter here at the farm but images of blazing wildfires from the previous summer are still fresh in our minds.

Luckily, our farm is situated on the east side of the Fraser River which provided a buffer of safety from the infamous infernos that made Lillooet a household name during the summer of 2009. However, we realized this was a relatively fragile buffer after witnessing charred pieces of woody debris falling from the sky onto our property.

Smoke plumes from the wildfire were ejecting this debris thousands of feet into the sky only to fall back to the earth many kilometres away. If only one still contained embers, it could initiate a new fire wherever it fell.

This got us thinking about how to better protect our property from future blazes. After all, the pine beetle had ravaged most of our ponderosa pines, leaving hundreds dead like giant matchsticks just waiting for a spark.

So in mid-January with a nice layer of snow on the ground, we set forth into the nearby Ponderosa patch with our new favourite farm gadget, the Stihl Farm Hand chainsaw to 'reduce the fuel load'.

The blue stain of the wood is indicative of a pine beetle infestation and is created not by the pine beetle but a fungus carried in its mouth parts. When the beetle bores into the wood, the fungus spreads throughout the tree constricting the flow of water and nutrients which eventually contributes to the death of the plant!

We then set ablaze a number of large piles of debris from the fallen trees. This one was especially impressive!

The resultant ash from these fires will be scattered to other areas of the property to encourage establishment and growth of native deciduous vegetation to attract wildlife and migratory songbirds, in particular. The foliage of showberry, maple, dogwood, and rose provides opportunities to glean for insects as well as cover during breeding and migration.


  1. Welcome to Lillooet! found you out via Carmen Paillot. Would love to connect with you, we love organic hops, Crannog, sustainable life, biology, and such! visit our blog: about our building project. I am also part of Lillooet Food Matters, a food security action group, and Salmon Talks Lillooet, working on the collapse of the sockeye and other species in the Fraser. Hope to meet you guys and talk over some yummy beer!
    oh ya, if you're in town, come to the Wild Salmon Cafe March 20 at the Friendship Centre, Lillooet.

  2. Hello there!
    I reckon this is the first comment to our blog and so apologise for the late reply. I absolutely love what you are doing out there in the mountains! I'll be sure to connect with you on March 20th.