Forest Fire Impacts 3 Acres Of Bernheim, Naturalist Urges Caution From Visitors

May 6, 2022 at 2:33 pm
Bernheim's natural areas manager says the fire will have both positive and negative impacts for the Forest.
Bernheim's natural areas manager says the fire will have both positive and negative impacts for the Forest. Photo courtesy of Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest

Last week, a fire spread through approximately three acres of the Poplar Ridge area of Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, and although their crew and the Bullitt County Fire Department aren’t exactly sure how it started, they say it was possibly caused by a cigarette.

After an employee saw smoke while driving on Tuesday, April 26, they were able to to pinpoint and contain the fire quickly, avoiding significant damage to the forest. 

“Luckily the fire was not able to spread to the extent where it got out of control,” Evan Patrick, the natural areas manager of Bernheim, said.  

Bernheim — which has done many controlled burns and previous research in fire ecology — plans to study how this affects the area and its life and growth. Patrick said that where the fire took place is a mature oak part of the forest. Sometimes, he said, a periodic fire in areas like that can increase the number of oak species. Some positives and negatives will occur, he believes. 

“We anticipate some culling of some older trees, which would open up the canopy and allow some young oaks to germinate and have the space to grow,” Patrick said. “We also know through our prescribed fires at the forest that there will be some introduction, potentially, to some invasive species when that sunlight is given the opportunity to hit the forest floor.”

“We’re going to keep an eye on it over the next couple of years, and see how fire interacts with this specific forest type,” he continued.

Despite what comes out of the research, Patrick urges everyone visiting to be cautious about protecting nature.

“I think that anybody who is familiar with recreation in any natural space is familiar with the term ‘Leave no trace,’” he said. “We really encourage folks to come out to Bernheim and have that experience to connect with nature, but we want them to leave Bernheim the way it is when they came here. That not only allows Bernheim to persist as a high quality habitat for plants and animals, but it provides that opportunity for the next visitor to come and have that experience.” 

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