Those of you who've walked the Dr. George trail at all this summer may have noticed that a few of the spruce trees appear to be dead or have dying limbs like the tree on the left (as always, click on the photo to make it larger). This is one of the few visible reminders of our prescribed burn in the grassland this spring.
While deciduous trees tend to be fairly tolerant of fast-moving fires before they get their leaves, spruces and other conifers (which don't drop their needle-shaped leaves in the fall) are much more affected by the heat and smoke and will sometimes even be killed by it. One of the many reasons for having a prescribed burn in the Sanctuary was to help slow the encroachment of these trees into the former pasture area.
That was a bit of a roundabout way of saying "we meant to do that."
Just as an aside, the red, dying needles on the affected trees are also a good reminder that your backyard spruces and your backyard fire pit aren't a very good match. For general safety and for the sake of your trees' health, it's always a good idea to keep fire pits well away from overhanging branches.