Counties issue fire bans

A spark from a passing road grader was enough to start a grass fire in Stettler County on Tuesday.

A farmer pulls a Mirror fire truck from mud in a field near Tees Monday. Wet fields hampered the trucks of five volunteer fire departments from leaving the scene of a large grass fire. The Tees department called in reinforcements after high winds threatened to spread the fire in many directions and over large spaces.

A farmer pulls a Mirror fire truck from mud in a field near Tees Monday. Wet fields hampered the trucks of five volunteer fire departments from leaving the scene of a large grass fire. The Tees department called in reinforcements after high winds threatened to spread the fire in many directions and over large spaces.

A spark from a passing road grader was enough to start a grass fire in Stettler County on Tuesday.

The spark hit the ditch and up went the flames, which then travelled across a field.

“That’s an example of how dry it is,” regional fire chief Mark Dennis said Tuesday afternoon, explaining that the county would be issuing a fire ban as soon as the firefighters got finished with the “fair-size” fire in the county’s southwest corner.

“The conditions are pretty extreme at this point, and along with the wind and the weather forecast, it’s prudent . . .”

Stettler County was on its way to joining the ranks of the counties of Ponoka, Lacombe, Red Deer and Mountain View, all of which issued fire bans on Monday and Tuesday. In most cases, open and barrel fires were restricted and fire permits suspended.

Ponoka County assistant chief administrative officer Tom Webber said county council met Tuesday morning and, after consulting with the fire department and forestry representatives in Rocky Mountain House, decided to issue the ban. The recent grass fires in Red Deer and Lacombe counties also “put a scare into everybody,” he said.

Mountain View County also announced a ban Tuesday. The county looked at their neighbours and what they were doing and decided to follow suit, said manager of community services Michelle Honeyman.

“It is unusual, because it’s an unusual year. We usually still have snow on the ground (at this time of year),” said Honeyman. “But I do know last year we had fire bans in November, when we would traditionally have snow on the ground.”

Clearwater County hasn’t issued a fire ban, although its regional fire department responded to its first grass fire of the season on Tuesday.

Even urban areas are under threat, and responding appropriately. The Town of Blackfalds imposed a fire ban on Tuesday on its fire district.

The City of Red Deer hasn’t issued a formal fire ban, but Red Deer Emergency Services took the opportunity on Tuesday to warn the public to be extra diligent, given the tinder-dry conditions.

Fire and injury prevention specialist Wes Van Bavel said city firefighters have responded to three minor grass fires since Saturday.

Van Bavel wanted to remind residents that the city does have a fire permit bylaw.

“In the newly annexed areas, we have some acreages and farms where they might want to burn some of their shrubs, some of their fields. They would require permission and a permit from us before they burn,” said Van Bavel.

He also stressed the importance of people watching where they throw their cigarette butts, that park grounds and peat-moss planters aren’t the appropriate receptacles.

For more information, visit albertafirebans.ca.

mgauk@bprda.wpengine.com