June 12th, 2024

Fire ban placed on river valley

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on June 7, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services has placed a fire ban in the Lethbridge river valley area due to extreme risk of fire, regardless of recent precipitation.
Troy Hicks, Chief Fire Marshall with Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services, told reporters Thursday that even though everything looks green at the moment thanks to recent precipitation, high winds have dried out that moisture and therefore a risk of fire has been identified.
“The winds we received on Tuesday just put this (area) in like a hair dryer – the wind dries out the ground very much,” said Hicks.
He said they have been checking the government websites and reading the levels on the river bottom.
“Here in the city of Lethbridge, as of yesterday our numbers were quite extreme, the risk of fire is very high.”
Hicks said this was the reason for the fire ban but he explained that it does not apply to the rest of the city.
“There are two types of fire bans we do here in the city – we do river valley and then we also do city-wide. A river valley fire ban does not affect backyard fire pits,” said Hicks.
He explained that even though the ban was not placed on fire pit, he wants to make sure residents are very observant of what they do.
“I want people in the city of Lethbridge to remember that there is a bylaw, bylaw 5858 to make sure they’re aware of it. It’s their responsibility to know what they can and cannot burn and what the restrictions are,” said Hicks.
He said some of the restrictions stated in the bylaw include the specific time of the day residents can have fires.
“We really want people to be cognitive of that and to pay attention. As for the river valley, the risk is too high with everything down there. The wind will drive that fire straight up the coulees, straight into the city,” said Hicks.
He said they will continue to monitor the moisture levels and will remove the fire ban as soon as the conditions improve.
“It’s not that we want to put fire bans in, but we do need to make sure the city of Lethbridge is safe and everyone’s being careful,” said Hicks.
Even though the fire ban is on open fires, fire pits and such in the river valley at the moment, Hicks is asking residents to be mindful of their smoking materials while in the area as well.
“Please dispose of your smoking materials properly, make sure they’re totally extinguished, make sure you have any kind of liquid to put them out, do not just be throwing them around, either matches or a cigarette butts, as that could really cause a lot of chaos,” said Hicks.
He said that also extends to the rest of the city. Even though there is no fire ban at the moment elsewhere here, residents should be mindful of how they dispose of their smoking materials.
“You could get a grass fire burning extremely fast. I mean, on a normal day here in Lethbridge we usually have 20 kilometres or more wind and even that wind could spread that fire very quickly,” said Hicks.
He added that this also applies to a structure fire, garbage can fire, or anything in between that can be lit because of a wrongly disposed smoking material.
“The biggest thing to remember is that for every action there is consequences and we need to be careful with that. Something as simple as not paying attention and throwing your cigarette butt out of the window could lead to a very large fire,” said Hicks.
Lethbridge County Emergency Services has also placed a fire ban and Heath Wright, Regional Manager of Emergency Services for the County of Lethbridge, told reporters the County’s data is also showing a high risk of fire regardless of the moisture received lately.
“Unfortunately our data that we respond to is declaring that it’s an extremely high risk right now, that we’re quite dry and with the wind conditions lately it’s obviously dried out the moisture and even though it does look green it won’t be green for long,” said Wright.
He said they based their decision on a criteria called five fuel moisture content and fire index spread.
“That might not mean much for the community, but to us it’s indicators to whether the vegetation is going to have enough moisture and could sustain combustibility or not,” said Wright.

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