In previous years, the County of St. Paul’s annual Fire Smart campaign saw area residents come together for barbecues with the region’s fire departments. In 2021, they’re playing bingo and offering up fixings for a barbecue meal prize package.
According to St. Paul Deputy Fire Chief Henry Thomson, FireSmart Bingo is his way of trying to still reach people and engage with the public on the importance of fire prevention on their properties.
“Basically, there’s 24 squares on the Bingo card and if the homeowner does a minimum of 12 of the tasks on the board, they can be entered in to the contest,” said Thomson.
Tasks range from routine spring maintenance like clearing debris from your eavestroughs and mowing your lawn, to larger tasks like moving the firewood pile a minimum of 10 metres away from your house and trimming evergreens. To prove the task was done, property owners are asked to take a photo of the completed job and upload them using the online form when they’re ready to enter.
“They’re all things that make your house more resilient in the event a fire were to come through,” said Thomson.
According to Thomson, the online entry form also includes links to information from FireSmart Canada which gives further details about how to complete some of the tasks properly and why those things are important for reducing the fire risk around your home.
Asked if there were any particular areas of the County causing him great concern, Thomson said nowhere specific immediately came to mind but in general the Lake Lot subdivisions are areas he would describe as being higher risk.
“They’re surrounded by coniferous trees, spruce and pine trees. And wildfire does spread much more rapidly through those types of areas,” he said. “But we want everybody to pay attention to their property regardless of where they are.”
According to Thomson, the number of fires the departments respond to within the County of St. Paul varies from year to year depending on the conditions.
“This year with the early melt, it melted while the ground was still frozen so it didn’t really soak in and it ran off instead. This year it seems particularly worse than others to me,” said Thomson, noting the fire season seems to have started earlier than in previous years and the conditions seem drier. There is currently a fire restriction in the County of St. Paul.
He said anecdotally, one positive thing which seems to have come from the wildfires in Slave Lake in 2011 and Fort McMurray in 2016 is that people are paying more attention to the fire season and paying it a bit more respect.
“And this game is just a little bit more help and a little more reminders for what people can do to be proactive with those things,” said Thomson.
FireSmart Bingo is open to residents of the County of St. Paul and runs through May 31.
First prize is all the fixings for a barbecue for six, including steaks, salads, potatoes, and dessert provided by Cornerstone Co-op.
Nine runners up can receive a gardening package including gloves, a rake, and grass seed. Thomson also expects he may have some swag from FireSmart Canada to give away.