It’s no secret that the 2020 season was a tad disappointing, and we don’t really know where 2021 is headed… But we thought it would be a great idea to look back to the last time we were impacted by a natural disaster - the Parry Sound 33 forest fire which left incredible devastation as it swept across the northern coast.
What happened during the Parry Sound 33 forest fire?
The PS33 originated from Henvey Inlet First Nation on July 10, 2018. A month later, the northeast area saw a total of forty-seven active fires and the Municipality of Killarney issued evacuation orders for Hartley Bay Road, Bigwood, Kilpatric, Struthers, Allen and Travers. and spread across about twelve thousand hectares of surrounding land.
Only on August 28, 2018 was the fire classified as under control.
Although the fire shut down Hartley Bay Marina for the biggest part of the season and the marina had to evacuate people from cottages and homes, we remain thankful that a bit of business was the full extent of damage we suffered. And we’re saddened for the loss of the reptiles and turtles (amongst other wildlife) that call the rock barren landscape of the rock and peat wetlands their home - an already limited nesting habitat.
*It took approximately a year for researchers at McMaster University to properly assess the impact of this French River fire. After all, the severity of a fire affects the recovery of the habitat, ecosystems, and landscape of the burn zone.
So one might wonder how such a vicious forest fire starts in the Georgian Bay landscape with all its open rock, lakes, and wetlands. Due to the humidity of the areas around the French River, such huge fires are unusual.
Canada’s northern peatlands store approximately 500 gigatons of carbon (comparable to 50-60 years of fossil fuel emissions). The water table around the peatlands is typically quite high, except in summer or during droughts when the water table decreases. When the water table drops to the bottom of the peatland, it becomes vulnerable to wildfire.
The Parry Sound 33 French River fire raged for almost three-and-a-half months and it’s believed that there was massive carbon loss to the atmosphere, which caused this long burn that went deep into the peat deposits.
Researchers set out to assess the impact of the fire on the availability of nesting habitat and find ways to restore areas damaged by the fire and loss of vegetation. They started by implanting mosses from donor peatlands into the burned wetlands to kickstart the recovery process.
We look forward to seeing the results of this selfless task which combines indigenous wisdom with modern convenience to restore our magnificent fauna and flora.
Read our 2018 eNewsletter on the season
*Reference: See the YouTube feasibility study on how the fire impacted the environment