Prescribed burn scheduled for April to protect Toronto’s rare black oak savannahs
By Turf & Rec
High Park to be closed during burn
By Turf & Rec
A prescribed burn at Toronto’s High Park next month will help to protect and sustain the city’s rare black oak savannahs.
A prescribed burn is a deliberately set and carefully controlled fire that burns low to the ground and consumes dried leaves, small twigs and grass stems, but does not harm larger trees. City staff are monitoring weather conditions and will schedule the burn to take place when optimal conditions are expected. As this activity is weather dependent, the city will announce the exact date and time 24 to 48 hours prior to the burn ignition.
Notices will be placed at park entrances and in the surrounding community to advise the public of when the burn will take place. High Park will be closed at the time of the burn, and people and vehicles will be restricted from entering burn areas. Detailed information about the prescribed burn and restrictions is available here
Prior to European settlement, controlled burns were used by Indigenous people to manage and maintain fire-dependent ecosystems, including the black oak savannahs in High Park. The city, in recognition of that history and in coordination with its Indigenous Affairs Office, is engaged in conversations with the Indigenous community about incorporating Indigenous knowledge and practices in High Park.
Under ideal weather conditions, the smoke from the prescribed burns would lift and not affect surrounding neighbourhoods. It is possible, however, that some smoke will reach residential areas near the parks. People with asthma and those highly sensitive to poison ivy should limit their exposure to the smoke by staying inside and keeping windows closed. Some people may choose to leave the general area of the park on the day of the burn if concerned about the smoke.
Prescribed burns are part of the city’s long-term management plan to protect and sustain Toronto’s rare black oak woodlands and savannahs in High Park, Lambton Park and South Humber Park. These rare vegetation communities are at risk of extinction, not only in Toronto but throughout North America.
The city has contracted a fire boss with extensive experience in complex prescribed burns to create the 2022 burn plan and implement it with assistance from city staff. The city has safely executed prescribed burns in High Park for almost two decades. Results of the 2022 burns will be assessed and additional forest management techniques will be implemented as required. They may include measures such as invasive species control, planting of native trees, shrubs and grasses, and ongoing site maintenance.