A smoldering campfire was discovered on a path of a wooded walking trail in Gaetz Lake Sanctuary last week.
Todd Nivens, executive director of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society, said the bush comes right up to the trail where the fire was lit late Thursday night or early Friday. Judging from the significant patch of ash that was left behind, there would have been a lot of heat and flame.
“There isn’t a good place to light a fire in the sanctuary — anywhere. The place they chose was worst than most,” said Nivens on Tuesday about the fire that was used for cooking based on the burned food cans left behind.
A regular trail walker found and reported the remains of campfire to staff at Kerry Wood Nature Centre on Friday morning.
Thankfully there wasn’t any wind at the time of the campfire because it could have turned into a really ugly wildfire in such a dry forest, Nivens said.
Red Deer Emergency Services was called to ensure the fire was properly extinguished. Two firefighters accessed the site from nearby Michener lands and walked in with water backpacks and shovels.
Tim Joyce, fire department platoon chief, said a lot of calls come in about campfires in wooded areas.
“Usually it’s people trying to stay warm or they’re cooking. It’s definitely something we see quite a bit of,” Joyce said.
“We would rather see them cooking in the fire pits that are legal, and not putting everyone at risk by lighting the fire in the woods.”
He said firefighters are called to a lot of fires that the public doesn’t know about, but nothing has gotten out of hand recently.
Nivens said there have been about four similar campfires discovered in the sanctuary in the last year and a half. People are likely homeless and just want to get warm, or heat up a meal, but it’s still the wrong place to light a campfire.
“It’s absolutely not the place to do it. It should not be happening in the sanctuary.”
The city does have public fire pits at Rotary Park, Kin Kanyon, McKenzie Trails and Kiwanis Picnic Area.