July 24th, 2024

New provincial fire prevention measures

By Collin Gallant on August 2, 2017.

Firefighters tackle a grass fire on the hillside between Kipling Street S.E. and College Drive S.E. Friday, April 26, 2013. A province wide fire prevention effort has officials urging extreme caution to avoid ignition.--NEWS FILE PHOTO


New fire prevention measures across southern Alberta, including a complete ban in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, were brought in Tuesday.

Unrelated to the parks ban, Alberta banned off-road vehicles in managed mountain forest areas west and south of Calgary to avoid potential sparks and new fires as hot, dry conditions push fire risk to “extreme.”

That vehicle ban doesn’t pertain to private land or provincial land outside forestry management areas, but officials are urging caution as farmers throughout the south begin an early harvest.

“Without a doubt I’d stress caution,” Agriculture Minister O’Neil Carlier told a teleconference with fire officials and the media on Tuesday.

“Farmers and ranchers will be out, and they can still do so, but be extra careful.”

The fire risk in the northern Alberta is considered low, but tinder dry conditions in the mountains and south of the province has administrators on alert.

Environment Canada placed most areas south of Calgary under heat advisories for much of July. The region has seen negligible rainfall.

Cypress County enacted a fire ban on July 28, following bans in the County of Forty Mile and the County of Newell, which includes pits, burning barrels and all permits.

The 30-day precipitation map included in last week’s crop report shows most of the southeast portion at moderately low around Medicine Hat. Levels are considered very low in the Special Areas, north of Lethbridge and south of the Cypress Hills.

Only a pocket surrounding Bow Island and in the Milk River region show near normal moisture levels.

Across the deep south, rainfall was one-third the average for July, while temperatures on average were three degrees higher than usual for the month. This has eliminated the possibility of a second cut of hay on non-irrigated land.

As for crops, southern Alberta features 1.7 million irrigated acres, Carlier stressed.

“The grass is dry and forage is dry without a doubt,” he said.

“We’re hoping for rain, but we’ll have to see at the end of the season what that looks like in terms of insurance programs.”

The province hopes to avoid adding new fires here as it helps British Columbia manage its unpredictable fire season which has led to evacuations.

Bans along the mountains have been in place since last week, but the prohibition on off-road vehicles aims to avoid grass or debris from heating up in wheels or exhaust pipes, then falling off to spark a blaze.

In the mountains and specifically near Calgary to the Crowsnest Pass, the conditions are worsening.

“We haven’t seen numbers like this since 2003,” said Chad Morrison, of Alberta Wildfire. “Most (ATV) riders are very responsible, but we want people taking extra care.”

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