Lacombe County rejects year-round fire permits

A proposal to bring in year-round fire permits was doused by Lacombe County council on Thursday.

A proposal to bring in year-round fire permits was doused by Lacombe County council on Thursday.

Fire permits have always been required from April 1 to Oct. 31, the time of year when any problems with runaway fires are most likely.

During the rest of the year, farmers and other landowners could burn their brush piles without a permit.

Keith Boras, the county’s manager of environmental and protective services, said requiring year-round permits allows the county to better track brush burns and work with landowners to ensure they know their responsibilities and brush is dry enough for effective burning.

As part of the permit, those planning to burn a brush pile larger than 10,000-square feet would require an inspection before lighting it up.

One of the problems with the current system is there is little county involvement when fire permits are issued, which come through a new automated online system.

County volunteer firefighters were called out to several costly brush fires this year that might have been avoided if the county had been able to check the brush pile ahead of time.

“I think we probably could have prevented some of them,” Boras said.

In Central Alberta, both Stettler and Red Deer Counties have year-round fire permitting and Ponoka County is considering it.

The proposal, which is supported by the county’s fire chief, ignited a lengthy debate around the council table.

Several councillors said rural residents don’t need more regulations to follow.

“I’m sorry, I’m against this stuff. It’s just more regulation,” said Reeve Paula Law.

Coun. Brenda Knight said in a dry winter, such as the last one where there was little snow cover, the county could reduce fire risks by introducing a fire ban as it does during dry summer periods.

Coun. Barb Shepherd said “safety is paramount.

“To me, it just makes sense to have a year-round permitting process.”

The vote to approve year-round permits narrowly lost with Law and councillors Knight, Rod McDermand and Dana Kreil against.