Gov’t issues province-wide fire ban due to dry conditions

  • May. 25, 2011 11:00 a.m.

CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News

The Alberta government issued a province-wide fire ban on May 17 in response to dry conditions and the risk of wildfires.

“The wind has dried everything out and there is a fair bit of standing water but back in the bush and the campgrounds there isn’t any,” said Fire Chief Ted Dillon. “In the town you can have a fire in a legal fire pit but on the rural side, no fires are allowed.”

Requirement for those pits are as follows: acceptable fire pits require a minimum of three metres clearance, measured from the nearest fire pit edge to buildings, property lines, or other combustible material. The fire pit height should be less than 0.6 metres when measured from the surrounding grade to the top of the pit opening. The opening cannot be more than one metre in width or in diameter when measured between the widest points or the outside edges. The pit installation has enclosed sides made from bricks, concrete blocks, heavy gauge metal, or other non-combustible materials acceptable to the fire chief. A spark arrester mesh screen with openings no larger than 1.25 centimetres, and constructed of expanded material must cover the fire pit opening in a manner sufficient to contain and reduce the hazards of airborne sparks.

Not adhering to the rules comes with strict consequences.

“The bans are on and you can be fined up to $5,000 under the Prairie Forestry Protection Act,” said Dillon.

The ban comes on the heels of a major fire that ravaged the community of Slave Lake forcing thousands of people from their homes to temporary housing hundreds of kilometres away. Another one of the province’s concerns was the fact many firefighters have descended on Slave Lake to help battle the blaze, leaving other detachments in the province short staffed.

Dillon said the Ponoka Fire Department was still at full capacity but he had received a request asking what equipment and manpower he could spare if need be.

He was also pleased with the number of calls or lack there-of the department has incurred this year regarding grass fires. Dillon couldn’t put his finger on the exact cause for the decrease compared to previous years but believes it had something to do with the public being more conscientious about fire safety.

For more information on wildfires burning across the province visit www.srd.alberta.ca/Wildfire/WildfireStatus