St. Paul Fire Department’s Chief, Trevor Kotowich, says from the conditions he’s seen so far this year and talking with other fire departments, he predicts we’re in for a wild fire season. Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as last year, but the conditions are right for sparking wildfires.
“I’m hoping I’m wrong, but even my colleagues throughout Alberta have been saying the same, the fires that we’ve experienced so far this year are indicative that it’s going to be a really tough year for fires,” admittedly, it’s early in the season and there has been some recent moisture, but it’s still not looking good, says Chief Kotowich. “It’s not going to take long for that moisture to disappear. We’re hoping we’ll experience some green-up and things won’t burn as easily.”
Being responsible about fires is the best defense, explains Kotowich, “the biggest advise I can give is, be responsible. If people are doing prescribed burning, be responsible. If you’re taking your ATV out, continuously clean out and check your exhaust systems.” One of the biggest problems the department has seen over the years is improperly disposed of cigarette. “We get numerous calls, every year, all the departments, for ditch fires along the highways. Almost always, it’s because of an improperly dis-guarded cigarettes.”
I think it’s going to be a tough year for us; in a sense that we’re going to experience some significant fires this year. – Trevor Kotowich St. Paul Fire Chief
The County of St. Paul had a fire restriction in place last week; which was just lifted Monday, thanks to wet conditions. “Early last week, with the anticipation of what the forecast was calling for, the County of St. Paul put in a Fire Restriction. To sum it up, basically, you couldn’t have any open fires; no grass burning, brush piles, anything along those lines. Burning permits were not being issued,” Chief Kotowich explains the restriction did not extend to warming or small cooking fires, “if people wanted to have a backyard fire, they still could. As long as it’s done in a safe manner, we had no issues with that.”
No sooner had the County put in the Fire Restriction had the department started getting calls, “we got very busy, until late Tuesday night, all of our County departments were non-stop putting out fires. So what the forecast was, we were right. It was low humidity, high temperatures and extremely high winds, which makes a perfect recipe for disasters.” Kotowich says it wasn’t a disaster per say, but there was a lot of fires, in the two-day period, last week in the County.
Thanks to the recent humidity, some snow and rainfall, the County is back to a Level One Restriction, which means they are issuing permits again. “There’s open burning permitted, people can burn garbage and brush; open burning permits are being issued again. People can go on about their business.” Permits can be issued over the phone, “we’ve made it really easy, people can do it on the phone. There is no fee for it.” It’s important to get the permit, explains the Chief, “we then know what you’re intending to burn and where you’re going to be burning. As a requirement with the permit, people have to contact the dispatch centre (the numbers are on the permits). So that if our dispatch gets a call about a fire, we don’t inadvertently dispatch the fire department.”
To learn more about safe burning, visit wildfire.alberta.ca.