Photo by Vytas Masalaitis
On Thursday, February 23rd, the Fire Department was called out to a brush fire at McKaig Nature Education Center. Thanks to their quick response... and the wet conditions this winter... the damage was minimal. It is estimated that a few acres were burned over. The fire burned mostly the forest leaf litter layer and dead and down twigs. Some of the lower shrubbery was affected by the heat. It remains to be seen if the living layers of tree trunks were damaged by the flames sweeping around their bases or protected enough by their bark.
The fire appears to have started on the portion of the Laurel Trial adjacent to the South East Entrance off Brower Road. It then climbed the hill and was intercepted by the fire crew at the aptly named "Fire Road" trail near the corner of Brower and King of Prussia roads. The Fire Road formed a partial fire break and the fire company was able to get a vehicle into the woods a short distance there to combat the flames.
UMPHF Board Member and volunteer firefighter Vytas Masalaitis was on the scene. He returned later in the evening to look for "hot spots" where embers might persist.
Township Fire Marshall John Waters is sure that humans caused the fire, but it may or not have been intentional. "An eyewitness saw two youth playing with a lighter," said Waters. "The police are investigating and anyone with information should contact them."
For the short term, the fire exposed some trash and volunteers are sought to clean up the area on our upcoming "McKaig Maintenance Morning," on Saturday, March 24.
Long term, the area will be monitored to see that invasive species do not take advantage of the disturbed area. It's even possible that some native seeds lying dormant in the "seed bank" will sprout this spring now that the overburden of leaves has been burned off. The area is well worth a look next time you hike at McKaig. And, as always, if you see something out of the ordinary, please call and report it to the appropriate authorities.
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