Camping season opens with fire bans in five counties

Fire bans have been put in place for the counties of Red Deer, Lacombe, Ponoka, Stettler and Kneehill.

Fire bans have been put in place for the counties of Red Deer, Lacombe, Ponoka, Stettler and Kneehill.

The bans mean that no open burning can take place and outstanding permits for burning are now suspended.

However, both gas and charcoal briquette barbecues are allowed in all of the counties.

In Red Deer County and the County of Stettler, the bans also include campfires and burning barrels.

As of Tuesday afternoon, in the counties of Lacombe, Ponoka and Kneehill people were still allowed to have burning barrels with mesh no larger than 13 mm (half an inch) and campfires in campsite stoves or fire pits that are attended.

The most up-to-date information on fire bans and advisories is available at www.albertafirebans.ca

Allan Weiss, fire services manager for Red Deer County, said the county issued a fire ban in support of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency. The ban includes hamlets, but doesn’t include the towns and villages within Red Deer County. Those communities have the power to issue their own fire bans.

There were a few minor grass fires in Red Deer County in April and May, which is not unusual at this time of year.

“Our biggest thing is the wind. You can have a fire when it’s dry, but if the wind picks up things can happen unexpectedly,” Weiss said.

He said he couldn’t say whether the ban will continue for the May long weekend.

“At this point we don’t know when the ban will be lifted,” Weiss said.

Ponoka County and County of Lacombe fire bans were put in place Tuesday.

Tom Webber, Ponoka County assistant chief administrative officer, said the fire department had a rough week.

“They were pretty much run ragged,” Webber said. “It’s dry and so we’re hoping that if the weather turns around in the next week or so we can take the bans off.”

Ponoka firefighters were assisting Hobbema fire department all weekend, as well as looking after a few spotty fires throughout the county.

Keith Boras, manager of environmental and protective services with the County of Lacombe, said there have been a few grass fires in the county, but it has not been as bad as in the northern part of the province, where there have been some major fires.

“We didn’t want to let things to get anywhere near that situation before we put a ban in place,” Boras said.

The Town of Sylvan Lake issued a full fire ban within its boundaries as of 3 p.m.

The ban will stay in effect until reasonable precipitation has fallen in the area, said Cliff Brausen, fire chief.

A state of emergency was called in Lamont County late Monday afternoon as firefighters fought a blaze. On Sunday there were fires on the Montana First Nation and the Louis Bull First Nation. Rob Harris, wildfire information officer with Alberta Sustainable Resources Development, said there were 31 fires burning in forest protection areas around the province as of Tuesday afternoon. All of the fires, at that point, were being held or considered to be under control.

“We’ve had very dry conditions and strong winds, which have led to quite a few new wildfires across the province over the weekend and over the first part of the week,” Harris said.

Since Friday afternoon, firefighters have responded to more than 90 wildfires in forest protection areas around the province. The fires have generally been north of Red Deer.

Harris said because of the dry conditions they are asking people to take extra care if they are allowed to have a fire. He said it is important that after people are done with a campfire they soak it, stir the coals and then soak it again to ensure it is completely out.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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