Devil’s Hopyard Fire-A Year of Regrowth

Devil’s Hopyard State Park, in East Haddam, Connecticut, was a hot topic a year ago. A fire that burned about 150 acres of the park kept local and state firefighters busy for quite a few days and even held the attention of news organizations for more than 24 hours.

A week after the embers and risk for rekindles died, my husband and I hiked along the orange trail to the vista to observe the fire’s aftermath. (See the photos by clicking the link) The contrasts were striking. It was easy to see where the fire was the hottest – along upward slopes – and where it simply burned the leaf litter.

Yet, in just a couple of weeks and once spring rains fell, ferns began to shoot out of the blackened ground.

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By August of 2012 forest grasses filled many of the lightly burned areas.

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Even areas where the fire was the hottest showed signs of recovery four months later.

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Now, a year later, we hiked many of the the same areas of the park to observe how burned sections of the forest look after a full year. Here’s a section of ledge outcropping one week after the fire.

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This is the ledge area a year later. The photo above is of a section just to the left of the photo below. A year ago the area below was totally blackened.

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The view from the vista a year ago reveals where fire moved along the slope.

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The view a year later.  A few small trees still have blackened trunks but evidence of the fire is barely visible at the ground level.

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The fire was most intense along the upward slope along the orange trail leading to the vista. A year ago this slope was completely blackened.  Fire consumed all the leaf litter and was fueled by many fallen trees and standing dead or declining trees. Below are views of the same slope, but from  different angles.

One week after the fire, looking up the slope.

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A year after the fire, looking down the slope.

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There are still blackened trees – only time will tell how many eventually succumb to fire damage – but the burned leaf-litter remains has been absorbed into the ground and is now covered by leaf litter from surviving trees that leafed out last spring and dropped their leaves last autumn … just as they have for decades.

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6 comments for “Devil’s Hopyard Fire-A Year of Regrowth

  1. April 13, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Fascinating! I attended a Connecticut forestry lecture last year and was intrigued to learn that forest fires were once a big factor in the local ecosystem. The lack of wildfires has significantly changed the types of plants and trees that live here in the span of a few hundred years.

    • April 13, 2013 at 10:18 am

      Amanda, many don’t realize the important role small, managed brush fires play in the life of forests. It is fascinating to be able to watch the immediate and subsequent consequences of last spring’s fire at Devil’s Hopyard. Much to be learned during the process.

  2. April 13, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    There is certainly a lesson there about picking it all up and starting again. Life is so full of disasters both large and not so large, progress, successes, and some really feel good moments. Your pictures are amazing thank you for sharing them.

    • April 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      Charlie, thanks so much. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. I never really looked at the fire as a disaster for the park, only as a lesson from nature. I hope my photos help others come to this conclusion.

  3. April 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Regeneration is an amazing process, and you’ve documented it well here. Fire seems so destructive, but it is actually necessary for the health of the whole system. How rewarding to see the new growth and changes!

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