A number of wildfires have burned in the Blue Hills recently, disrupting some visitors’ plans and requiring state and local fire resources.  The fires, however, may have delivered some benefits to the Blue Hills fire-dependent ecosystems.

In the last month, three fires have burned in the park, including Sawcut Notch Path (1.4 acres), Old Furnace Brook Path (11.5 acres) and Slide Notch Path (16.5 acres). See map above.

Ninety-eight percent of wildland fires are human-caused, according to Chief Fire Warden Dave Celino of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

All three fires, Chief Celino explained, have been driven by typical springtime dry surface fuel conditions. “The surface fuels, such as leaf litter, small diameter woody debris, grasses and shrubs become available to burn during weather patterns like we’ve seen over the last few weeks, where we get at least three days of no precipitation combined with drying winds and low relative humidity. All fire activity has been limited to surface fuels, as the lower soil remain very wet from winter rains and snowpack.”

The Blue Hills ecosystem has evolved with fire, and while fire near roads and development may become hazardous, the ecosystem in fact thrives with the frequent occurrence of fire in the landscape.

The fire that took place at Slide Notch Path, for example, burned almost entirely in the pitch pine and scrub oak habitat. This community is a fire dependent ecosystem.  An initial assessment of the burn area, according to Chief Celino, “indicates some very favorable fire effects for this area as a whole.”

Because of the benefits to the ecosystem and safety considerations, the Department of Conservation and Recreation has completed a fire management plan for the Blue Hills, and is in the early stages of a planning process to introduce controlled fires in the Blue Hills. Controlled fires would benefit fire-dependent species, and reduce the hazardous fuel loading on those sites, which would help reduce the intensity of wildfires in the future.

Statewide there have been 41 fires in the last week, which have burned 69 acres, and 284 fire year to date for 648 acres burned.

To help prevent uncontrolled fires, please be careful to properly dispose of cigarette butts and other lighted materials.

Photo: Charlie Crosby

Photo: Jennifer Brodbeck