The burning season

While I’ve been immersed in poetry and taxes this month, LW has been busy around the farm. One task she looks forward to each year is burning the grass along the fence line. This year the fire got away on her.


This huge cedar marked the first of four sharp turns where the road zigs and zags along the property lines. Every April for decades, the cedar has been a way station for mountain bluebirds enroute to Alaska. Last summer it offered safe haven to a kermode Jake chased across the field. It and the gnarled old birch that stood next to it signalled to motorists, “Slow down!” Now both trees are gone.

The cedar was actually a clump of five trees that joined forces for a hundred years. Had it been one solid tree, I suspect it would still be standing, but the gap at the center of five trunks created a chimney effect that pulled the flames in and up.

The prospect of the fire jumping from the cedar branches onto nearby trees or sparking our neighbour’s field of dry grass alarmed us. Both possibilities threatened our homes. A call to the wildfire service let us know we were on our own: “We’re still in winter mode,” the fellow on call at the Hazelton office informed me. “We don’t even have a water truck up and running yet.”

One of our neighbours suggested cutting the cedar down onto the plowed field, where it could do no harm. He enlisted the help of another neighbour, a former logger, and the two of them confronted the tree with chainsaws and wedges. An hour later it crashed to the ground.


In the morning a crew from the Hazelton forestry office filled a water truck and drove out to make sure the situation was under control.


Once the cedar was felled, it was clear the birch had to come down, too. It was simply too ugly to stand alone. Taking it out was tricky because of the power lines, so LW called her woodsman mentor and they tackled it together by hooking a cable to it. LW guided the cable with her tractor while Bud made a few judicious cuts to the birch with his saw.


Once LW cleaned up the mess, nothing remained but a scenic spot for a weenie roast.



8 Responses to “The burning season”

  1. Judy Jaarsma

    I do like stories with happy endings.
    This has more than one with good reason.

    I especially like the very last one
    I think it’s the first weenie roast of the season!

  2. Debbie

    Well, we all have to go sometime and I guess it was their sometime! You were able to enjoy a visit with your good friend Bud, have a weiner roast, and the unobstructed view of the beautiful Seven Sisters is another positive result of LW’s ‘spring fever’.

    • commatologist

      Yes, now that the dust has settled it seems all good, Debbie. A bit nerve-wracking at the time! Thanks for reading. Leslie

  3. Nola

    Wow! What a scary several hours that must have been. Thank heavens for clear thinking neighbours, chainsaws, Bud and LW with her tractor.

    I loved that tree at the corner but cremation seems an appropriate ending to a long and honourable life.

    My greatest fear when housesitting at your remote northern retreat is that the house will burn down under my watch. So glad all ended well.

    Bet those weenies tasted good!

  4. commatologist

    Nola, there’s quite a bit of usable cedar on the ground, so the tree’s long honourable life will continue in another form.

    Thank goodness for friends and neighbours!


  5. Diana Z

    Great story! I love the photo of LW in front of those amazing mountains – wow! So glad to hear that everything worked out.


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