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crowsnest fires
Crowsnest Fires
  • on Aug. 2l, 2003, a random fire got out of control - what had been a seasonal wildfire abruptly changed direction and transformed into a giant fire. A 6-km wall of flame reached 50 m into the sky, the fire was suddenly whipping over the slopes, throwing off the energy equivalent of a an atomic explosion every 30 minute.
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One resident at home that Saturday was Elaine Hruby, whose husband was working that weekend up north in Fort McMurray. At 10 a.m. authorities told her to leave. Immediately. I didn’t know what to take says Hruby, recalling her anxious departure. You start doing crazy things. After putting her cat and dog in the car, she grabbed the lamp her husband once used as a miner, her jewelry (but not his) and a little plastic Buddha.Hruby then drove about 20 km west along the valley, sat down on a rock ledge overlooking1,359-m-high Crowsnest Pass and watched the flames veer down on Hillcrest. Despite her horror, she couldn’t stop looking. I felt masochistic, sitting on the outcropping, Hruby recalls. But those flames were like a magnet.
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In 2003 the crowsnest fire blaze burned over 20,000 hectares of forest, affecting not only the timber industry, but also local businesses. Tourism was hit hard, but other businesses like local dry cleaners, gas stations, restaurants and office services maintained a steady business. Another businsess that benefited is Spray Lake Sawmills, they will use a significant amount of the burnt lumber. That company has a 28% quota of the annual allowable salvage rights in the area and will salvage the lumber they can, so that it doesn't go to waste. However, salv age efforts depend upon the amount of root scorch and the cost to pursue the salvage. For example, burnt bark is not good, from a lumber perspective but de-barking the trees will keep the chips clean and reduce the carbon content. There are also ecological pros and cons. Certainly a burned area is black and looks devoid of life but over time burned area also creates diversity that wasn’t there before. Large stands of timber smoother the light and inhibit undergrowth. A burned area creates ecological diversity and allows for the development of rich undergrowth that wasn’t there before.