Burn Baby Burn

Fire crews battle the blaze in Assiniboine Forest Thursday, April 26, 2012. But is it bad news for foragers and forest lovers alike?

Smoke billows, flames lick through the understory, and what was moments earlier familiar and safe is vaporized, changed, blackened.

The recent, if brief, blaze in Assiniboine Forest on Thursday, April 26 brought the spectre of forest fires dangerously close to home.

It’s natural to react with fear. We’ve been taught that forest fires are agents of destruction. But the forest sees fire in a different way.

Yes, if forests could feel, fire would be a painful experience, but it is also one that brings renewal and possibilities.

For millenia, they’ve been maintaining healthy forests and grasslands. As much a part of the natural landscape as springtime crocuses, squirrels, and our many lakes.

In fact, the city plans controlled burns within the very park we all feared would be forever scarred, if not destroyed.

The explosion of life following a fire is quite amazing to watch. Pioneer species, such as strawberries, fireweed, aspen, and others, rush in to take advantage of newly available nutrients and sunlight. Animals of all sorts, from voles to bears, follow to take advantage of nature’s new bounty. And many a wise mushroomer will tell you to keep an eye out for morels in the blackened wake of a burn.

Have no fear for the fate of our urban emerald, tarnished, but not lost. We are lucky the damage was not more extensive and owe thanks to the efforts of the folks who contained and put out the fire. And I cannot understate the fact that the act of starting a forest fire unintentionally is not good; deliberately, reprehensible.

But as we head out for another season of Foraging, starting this Saturday, May 5, we here at Savour Winnipeg are cautiously optimistic. I hope you’ll join us. Because when you sign up for one forage, you’ll get access to the entire season of foraging. And you’ll have a front seat to the miracle of re-birth and biodiversity that our little fire brings forth. I think we’ll find this jewel will actually shine even more brilliantly for the blaze.


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