Prescribed burn to help sustain High Park

Carefully planned fire to protect rare forest this spring

Areas of High Park will be lit on fire this spring to help sustain the forests over the long term.

Starting at the end of March, and until the middle of April, Lands and Forest Consulting will be waiting for the opportune time to light the blaze.

“We have to monitor the weather and site,” says Ray Vendrig, who works with Toronto’s Parks, Forestry, and Recreation department. “Weather conditions, site conditions. We need low wind, a certain moisture level in the ground. We can’t have rain.”

The city is working with Lands and Forest Consulting, trading information and data, waiting for the right moment.

“It is a very spur of the moment thing,” Vendrig says. “The contractor will call us and say when it’s time to do it.”

The burn will be controlled. It will be low to the ground, and won’t harm large trees. It is one of many prescribed burns that have been executed in Toronto as part of a sustainability program to protect the city’s forests.

High Park in particular has what is called a black oak savannah. According to Vendrig, this kind of environment benefits from fire; it helps the reproduction process of the native plants and trees. The burn will also help eliminate invasive plant species.

An operation like this can cost about $10,000. This price includes an initial site visit in the fall before the spring burn, monitoring of the site, the expertise of the contractors on burn day, a second-day cleanup, and a fall meeting to revisit the site and determine the success of the burn.

Under ideal conditions, the smoke from the burn will not affect surrounding neighbourhoods. Some smoke may reach residential areas; the city advises people with asthma or high sensitivity to poison ivy to limit their exposure during the burn.

When the exact date is determined for the burn, it will be announced 24 hours before taking place.