Fire season off to a hot start as Fire Chief reminds residents to be aware, smart

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It’s been one month since the official start of the wildfire season in Alberta and already, high winds and dry conditions helped in starting a grass fire west of Whitecourt Wednesday afternoon.

Whitecourt Fire Chief Bryan Wynn said a resident just west of town was using their burning barrel when an ember sparked the tall grasses nearby and triggered a grass fire event.

Luckily, he said the fire was brought under control quickly but there were things that could have been done to prevent the incident.

“There was a burning barrel close to an area with tall dead grasses left over from last year… And once they’re exposed they become very dry and tinder-like very quickly and ignite with little energy,” he said adding the department used the opportunity to inform the resident of other problem areas on the property.

“At that property there was one tree where the branches were limbed and the next tree where the branches were all touching the ground so I just had a conversation with the resident that this tree is not going to ignite and that tree is… It’s very easy to see what’s going to happen with the way the ground grasses are right now.”

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Wynn said ensuring all fuels are kept away from structures, trees are limbed to two meters and that grass is consistently mowed and maintained are just a few ways to keep your residence safe from grass and wildfires.

He added FireSmart Canada and their app offer tips for specific areas and check lists to keep safe as fire season ramps up.

“This fire season seems to be starting earlier with our climate changing,” Wynn said. “Right now with the winds and stuff like that we’ve had a couple big power lines storms this winter but luckily there was snow on the ground so we didn’t get any fires started but now if you get wind events and power lines down you can bet you’re money there’s going to be some grass fires started right away.”

Wynn said that if there are power lines running through or across your property and trees that look like they might come down, to contact the power company which might come and bring down any problem trees with the owner’s permission.

“If you do have an event, it’s not going to just affect your property but probably your neighbours so just be a little more careful, especially this time of year.”

ocondon@postmedia.com

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