Prescribed burn to occur at U of T Mississauga

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - 12:30pm
Nicolle Wahl

This spring, the University of Toronto Mississauga will be conducting a prescribed burn of a small (1.3 hectare) parcel of land in the north-east section of its property. The event, which would take 30-50 minutes, will occur sometime between April 1 and April 30, 2010, weather permitting.

This prescribed burn is part of a professionally prepared long-term management plan designed to preserve and enhance part of UTM's grassland habitat, which is an important resource for our teaching and research activities, says Professor Nick Collins of the Department of Biology and co-chair of the UTM/Evergreen Naturalization Steering Committee. Without active management, this area will continue to develop into a shrubland dominated by non-native invasive plant species.

Currently, the area is a flat savannah habitat that is being invaded by shrubs and small trees. A prescribed burn, Collins says, is the most effective way to encourage native grassland plants, to remove non-native species and to restore the meadowland character of the area. (A prescribed burn is a deliberately set and carefully controlled low fire that consumes dried leaves, some seeds, and small stems, but does not harm larger trees.)

The prescribed burn itself is not experimental in any way, he explains. It is a well-recognized, established method of managing the preservation and enhancement of certain ecosystems, and is used scores of times each year in Canada. Experienced, professional firefighters will carry out the procedure according to established standards. The plans have been thoroughly reviewed by Mississauga Fire Department officials. Natural and man-made firebreaks will completely surround the burn site.

The prescribed burn, Collins emphasizes, will be initiated by the professional fire boss only when he has determined that both the combustibility of the fuel and the current weather conditions are within prescribed limits. An appropriate date for the burn cannot be predicted more than a few days in advance, and even then, the events could be postponed if weather conditions vary significantly from predictions. After the burn, the site will be monitored continuously until the professional fire boss declares it out. Regular operations of the university will not be affected.

A similar burn took place in this site in 2008, and proceeded without any complications.

Questions about the prescribed burn can be sent to green.team@utoronto.ca, or mail them to: A. Iwaniw, Room 3097, South Building, 3359 Mississauga Rd. N., Mississauga, ON, L5L 1C6. Answers to those questions and a map of the area affected will be posted online.