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Sunday , 26 September 2021

Fire Chief urges caution during tinder dry conditions

It’s that time of year when we see dead and dry brown grass, twigs, leaves and branches on the ground which provide fuel for fast-moving grassfires. These conditions are like a light switch for wildfires.

Cold Lake Fire-Rescue is urging residents to use caution and common sense when lighting recreational fires, after 33 firefighters spent more than five hours battling a blaze which destroyed several buildings.

According to a City of Cold Lake news release, “The April 25 fire near English Bay Road and Horseshoe Bay resulted in the loss of a barn,
storage shed, gazebo and several trailers.”

Cold Lake volunteer firefighters were able to bring the flames under control before they spread to a nearby home. The fire was deemed
accidental and no injuries were reported.

“Conditions are extremely dry right now and fire will spread fast; we’ve seen it firsthand this spring already,” said Fire Chief and Manager of Protective Services Jeff Fallow. “In April alone, our department responded to more than a dozen wildland fires in the M.D. of Bonnyville. The majority were accidental, but two are being investigated as arson. Several were caused by permitted burns getting out of control. One hundred percent of these fires are preventable if people take the necessary precautions.”

Currently residents are not required to obtain permits for recreational fires within the City of Cold Lake, but they must abide by the bylaw regulating burning and fire pits.

Among the regulations, all recreational fires must:

  • Be contained in an appropriate fire pit.
  • Be constantly monitored by a competent person and never left unattended.
  • Be located with at least 3 metres clearance from buildings, property lines, trees, fences or any combustible material.
  • Be covered with a spark arrestor (mesh screen or other non-combustible material) to contain sparks.
  • Not exceed 1 metre high and 1 metre wide (flame size) at their largest point.
  • Not create a risk of fire, damage or nuisance to any persons or property.
  • Burn only clean, dry, untreated wood or charcoal. Burning treated or painted wood, leaves and yard waste, garbage, rubber, plastic or animal/organic waste is prohibited within the city, and doing so could result in significant fines.

In addition, the city would like to remind residents that any person burning wood or charcoal in a fire pit or barbecue must have a means of extinguishing the fire on hand at all times. They must also ensure the fire is fully extinguished, leaving only cold ashes before supervision of the fire ends.

Fire pits, both permanent and portable, must meet specific requirements before being used for a recreational fire. The requirements are defined in the Burning and Fire Pit bylaw.

“Residents who have an outdoor fire pit, but aren’t certain that it meets the requirements for recreational burning, are welcome to give us a call and we will schedule a free inspection,” says Fallow. “It’s better to be safe than sorry; illegal burns can lead to damaged property,
significant fines for the property owner, or worse.”

Penalties for failing to comply with the Burning and Fire Pit bylaw range from $100 to $5,000.

In addition, those responsible for a fire which requires a response by Cold Lake Fire-Rescue may also be responsible for the costs of the response. Tanker, pumper, rescue and brush fire trucks (and associated firefighters) operate at $400 per hour.

The latest information on active fire bans in Alberta is available at www.albertafirebans.ca.

To schedule a free fire pit inspection, contact Cold Lake Fire-Rescue at 780-594-4494.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is from Whitbourne Newfoundland and graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner!