Wildfire risk spurs planners

By JOSH ALDRICH Advocate staff With snow still blanketing most of Central Alberta as the long weekend hit, it is tough to be thinking about potential wildfire risk.

By JOSH ALDRICH

Advocate staff

With snow still blanketing most of Central Alberta as the long weekend hit, it is tough to be thinking about potential wildfire risk.

The Alberta Environmental and Sustainable Resource Development branch in Rocky Mountain House has already been planning for this year’s season for months.

They’ve been preparing for controlled burns, expanding their online presence and have been out in the public running workshops.

More of the white stuff may still be in the forecast for this coming week, but the ESRD will not be caught unaware when conditions go tinder dry.

“It depends on what Mother Nature provides us, she’s often unpredictable,” said Barry Shellian, a wildfire ranger and information officer with ESRD. “There has been a significant amount of snow this year, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks as to what Mother Nature will deliver us.”

Though he does warn we are hitting the season known as Spring Hazard, where dry grass and old growth is more susceptible to sparks because it has not been replaced by new green foliage yet.

Last week at the Rocky Co-op, they held a Family FireSmart and Tree Pruning workshop in cooperation with Clearwater County where they stressed important tips to fire prevention surrounding their property. Pruning is a key component of that, to clear out old, dry overgrowth, or perfect fuel for wild fires

The importance of this type of prevention was hammered home with the 2011 wildfires that engulfed the town of Slave Lake.

“Slave Lake was a catastrophic even for a lot of people,” said Shellian. “We’re being even more proactive with FireSmart now.”

Prescribed burns also play an important role in prevention of future tragedy.

Almost the entirety of the province is a fire dependant eco system, meaning for centuries nature in Alberta has sustained itself through wildfires. Due to the long, cold winters, there is limited opportunity for natural decay to take place. Wild fires are essential in breaking down old growth and returning nutrients to the ground for new growth. Pine cones, for example, need to be super-heated in a fire in order to disperse their seeds.

Shellian encourages people to go to sites where there has been a prescribed burn and watch how the area naturally rehabilitates to a healthier state.

But with a human population now spread out through the region, for safety sake, a helping hand is needed. Last year, 90 per cent of wildfires in the province were caused by humans, meaning 90 per cent of wild fires were preventable.

This year FireSafe is planning potentially five fires, depending on how weather conditions go.

“You’d be surprised how fast grass and small plants grow back,” said Shellian.

For those out in the wilderness, ESRD has created three apps tailored to your use.

Their smartphone geared Alberta Wildfire app was rolled out last year for iPhones and has now been developed for Android systems this year. It is an all purpose app geared for industry, recreationalists and landowners, delivering up to date information on fire hazards, fire bans and current wildfires. It also simplifies the process for reporting wildfires. It is available through iTunes.

FireWeb is an online application for the emergency industry designed to assist in determining potential wildfire behaviour to facilities and infrastructure, providing accurate, real-time information.

The third app is the FireSmart Field Guide for Upstream Oil and Gas. This online guide is tailored specifically to the oil and gas industry to help in wildfire assessment risk to help prevent wildfire and reduce the risk to industry infrastructure, operations, personnel safety, liability and the environment.

“I just want to know what’s going on in the world around me, what affects me, so when people see the smoke, there could be cause for alarm because surprises are always difficult for people, by having this proactive app, people will understand what’s going on,” said Shellian.

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer’s noxious weeds are a goat’s dietary delight

Piper Creek Community Garden gets chemical-free weed control

Get your guilty pleasures: Westerner Days food

Traditional sugary treats were served up by the plate, bowl and bucket… Continue reading

Centrefest brings feats of daring to Red Deer’s downtown

Fundraising was a tough slog, but it came together in the end

Count shows slight decrease in Red Deer’s homeless

In two years, the number of homeless in Red Deer has decreased… Continue reading

Redoing hip surgeries are costly, says new study

Redoing hip and knee replacements costs Canada’s health system $130 million a… Continue reading

WATCH: Cirque ZUMA ZUMA puts on a show at Westerner Days

ZUMA ZUMA performs three times a day during Westerner Days

Zuckerberg’s Holocaust comment puts Facebook on the spot

NEW YORK — Denying the Holocaust happened is probably OK on Facebook.… Continue reading

Brazilian police arrest ‘Dr. Bumbum’ after patient dies

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian police have arrested celebrated plastic surgeon Denis… Continue reading

Canadian marijuana company Tilray has first US pot IPO

SEATTLE — A Canadian company is the first marijuana business to complete… Continue reading

Dolphins anthem punishment includes suspensions

Miami Dolphins players who protest on the field during the national anthem… Continue reading

Soy “milk” makers may need to find alternative description

NEW YORK — Soy and almond drinks that bill themselves as “milk”… Continue reading

Calgary woman convicted in son’s strep death granted day parole

CALGARY — A woman whose son died after she failed to take… Continue reading

Greenpeace members arrested for climbing Olympic Stadium tower in Montreal

MONTREAL — Several Greenpeace members climbed the outside of the Olympic Stadium… Continue reading

B.C.’s Site C dam project behind schedule, plagued by problems: expert

British Columbia’s mammoth Site C hydro-electric project is seriously behind schedule, plagued… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month