Bog fire 50 percent contained

The Canadian Press

DELTA, B.C.—About 90 percent of a peat bog south of Vancouver is expected to regenerate in the coming years, but it could take a century before the entire area recovers from a fire that tore through it yesterday, says the head of a conservation society.
Eliza Olson, founder of the Burns Bog Conservation Society, said the 30-square-kilometre nature reserve in Delta is believed to be the largest undeveloped urban wilderness area in North America.
“That’s one of the beauties of having Burns Bog here in the water table,” she said in an interview yesterday.
“Because it’s at the mouth of the Fraser River, it’s an estuary-raised bog. You normally don’t find a raised bog this far south.”
A fire reported at Burns Bog on Sunday was about 50 percent contained by yesterday afternoon, with crews hoping to fully contain the flames by today morning at the latest.
Chief Dan Copeland of the Delta Fire Department said the blaze was 78 hectares in size, and about 80 firefighters from a number of jurisdictions were battling the fire.
How the fire started was unclear, he said, but a team of investigators from the Delta Fire Department and B.C. Wildfire Service were working to determine the cause.
Burns Bog is one of North America’s largest peat bogs and flames can sink under the dry peat, where they burn out of sight.
But ground conditions and a quick response from firefighters kept the flames from burrowing beneath the peat, Copeland told a news conference yesterday afternoon.
“We were able to get to it quick enough and soak it down so it didn’t get deep into the peat,” he said.
Fighting the fire is still tricky, he added, because of the area’s soggy terrain.
Delta police have said it could take at least a week to extinguish the fire.
An evacuation order for businesses near the blaze was scheduled to be lifted last night.
Highway 17, a major thoroughfare that cuts through Delta, was expected to remain closed from Highway 99 to the Highway 91 connector for several days.
Mayor Lois Jackson said the fire is a “major emergency” and the community was under provincial emergency status.
She said Metro Vancouver was monitoring air quality as smoke had drifted into Vancouver, but conditions improved since Sunday and it had not issued a general advisory.
Delta plans to consult with Metro Vancouver’s Burns Bog scientific advisory panel for guidance in the recovery of the nature reserve, Jackson said.
“It’s a very special area and we’re working very hard to bring it back to what it was, if we can.”
Jackson was also mayor in 2005, when a blaze in Burns Bog grew to more than two square kilometres and took more than a week to put out.
Olson said the bog’s acidic, peat-forming ecosystem includes rare plants, such as cloudberries, called bakeapples in Newfoundland and Labrador, and velvet-leafed blueberries, along with two species of dragon flies among its diverse inspect species.
About 200 hectares of the bog remain private land that could be developed because it’s not protected under a conservation plan set up by the municipal, provincial and federal governments, she said.
Most of Burns Bog is closed off to the public due to safety and conservation concerns, but about 60 hectares of an area called the Delta Nature Reserve is open and is often a site for school field trips.