In the hot, dry summer of 2003, extensive forest fires raged through western Canada destroying homes, businesses and large sections of forest.In Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, the Vermilion River valley burned from the river right up to treeline. The highway and hiking trails were closed and an Alpine Club of Canada hut was burned. This panorama was shot less than one kilometre from the Kootenay Park Lodge, which was saved only by intensive fire suppression. Fire crews bulldozed a fireguard near the Continental Divide to prevent the fire from spreading into Alberta's Bow Valley where it could have threatened the towns of Banff and Canmore.
Fire management practices have changed in Canada's National Parks in recent years. In the past, fires were extinguished quickly leading to a dangerous buildup of fuel in the forests. Now fires are left to burn unless they threaten buildings or other structures. Parks Canada even uses prescribed burning on smaller sections of forest to promote the natural fire life cycle, and prevent large devastating fires.
Now, three years later, rejuvenation is well established. Lodgepole pine seedlings are sprouting and shrubs and flowers are taking advantage of the extra sun. The yellow flowers here are arnicas and the most common plant is fireweed, which blooms later in the summer.