Alarmed neighbours turned their garden hoses on a brush fire that broke out in the Pines on Wednesday evening, endangering five or six homes and scorching fences.
Pines resident Raymond Lee credits a little girl from the neighbourhood for noticing a tree in flames at about 6:50 p.m. She immediately ran to tell her parents, who called 911.
Although Lee lives across the street from homes on Piper Drive that back onto a wooded reserve, he was among the neighbours who helped control the burn before firefighters arrived.
“There were houses only 50-metres away from the treed area,” said Lee, so many people were using their garden hoses to beat back the flames.
“It was down on the ground and burning up high. It was spreading so fast,” Lee recalled, that even “short, short” backyard grasses were lighting up, carrying the flames closer to homes.
“One house was only a few metres away,” added Lee, who noticed the fire burned a backyard fence and scorched the side of a garage.
When firefighters arrived, they asked Pines resident for some chainsaws to help fell some of the trees to create a fire block, said Lee, who noted city water tanker hoses were hooked up to two fire hydrants.
According to EMS, crews were on scene for approximately two hours extinguishing the fire. The blaze had spread to the adjacent residential area, causing a minimal amount of damage to one structure. “Fortunately, no residents were displaced by this damage.”
Despite extinguishing the fire, emergency services crews have returned two additional times to address further hot spots.
Lee questioned why the City of Red Deer didn’t impose a fire ban earlier in the week. Instead it was reinstated it on Thursday morning, after these homes were put at risk.
“It was hot and dry all week… so what is the threshold (for a ban)?” said Lee. “We have fires burning all over the province but it’s let’s go back to to roasting wieners in Red Deer?”
Tim Kivell, fire marshall for Red Deer Emergency Services, said the city procedures require daily monitoring of the Alberta Centre for Information Services (ACIS) website and its ISI (Initial Spread Index). If fire danger is rates extreme, consultation is then done between the city fire marshall as well as Red Deer’s Environmental Initiatives and/or Parks department. If there’s no rain in the forecast, a fire ban is usually called, he added.
The ACIS site was not updated until 4 p.m.Wednesday, when the fire danger was rated extreme. But city officials did not have time left in their work day to do a consultation until Thursday morning when the fire ban was reinstated, said Kivell.
“Due to the extremely hot and dry conditions, fires can easily start and in some instances, reignite,” says Assistant Deputy Chief Curtis Schaefer. “Given the heightened risk, the City of Red Deer has reissued the fire ban and we ask the community to do their part in preventing wildfires.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation.