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Wildfire in Rouge Park

Sparks from Tree Candling
can cause jump fires,
enlarging the blaze.

This grass fire has already
consumed numerous young
trees and is quickly closing
in on more.

These baby rabbits were rescued
from the fire and bottle fed 

On April 28, 2003, a train traveling through the Rouge Park sparked several wildfires that killed thousands of trees and threatened rural homes, barns and historic buildings. Dozens of fire trucks and fire fighters fought to contain the wildfires throughout the afternoon, evening and overnight.

Dry fields and forests and gusty winds in areas remote from water hydrants fed the flames. In some areas, the flames spread twenty or more feet up pine and cedar trees creating a dangerous candling effect and creating flying sparks and the risk of jump fires.

Thousands of young trees were burnt in the Rouge Park, including many planted by community groups such as 10,000 Trees for the Rouge Valley and Friends of the Rouge Watershed (FRW).

Thousands of trilliums and trout lilies, just poking their heads above ground, were burnt. Nests of baby rabbits, birds and animals were destroyed.

FRW water truck and staff help battle
fire in Rouge Park.

Unusually dry conditions allowed this fire to spread and burn zigzag cedar fence lines that had lasted more than 100 years. Such wildfires will become more common and costly if global warming trends continue unchecked.

If the winds had blown stronger or the forests had been drier, this fire could have been much worse. Rural homes, historic buildings and more sensitive wildlife habitat could have been lost. Lives could have been lost.

We were relatively lucky this time. We would hope that CP Rail will take steps to avoid a dangerous repeat of this wildfire by:

  • improving train maintenance to avoid fire spark sources such as faulty brakes and bearings;
  • working with the Rouge Park officials to develop environmentally-friendly right of way (ROW) designs and maintenance programs that will reduce the potential for wildfire ignition and spread;
  • taking extra precautions when the fire hazard is high, such as having a train caboose with personnel to detect sparking problems and deploy fire suppession equipment and staff before the fire spreads; and,
  • working with local fire department officials and the Ministry of Natural Resources to develop a strategy for prompt detection and suppression of fires with rapid response wildfire suppression teams and water tankers.

We would also hope that CP rail will support the re-planting of trees to replace the tens of thousands trees and shrubs which were killed by fires started by sparks from a train.

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