SUNDRE – There were no major fires reported over the May long weekend when some desperately-needed precipitation substantially reduced – but certainly did not eliminate – the risk of wildfire.
“It’s definitely greened things up and made it a little harder for fires to take off,” Ross Clews, chief of the Sundre Fire Department, said about the recent rain.
“But they still can,” he added.
From Friday, May 19 to Monday, May 22, local firefighters responded to six calls, and not a single one involved any infernos that threatened to spread out of control, Clews told the Albertan on May 24.
Two were relatively minor motor vehicle collisions that did not leave anybody seriously injured. One involved a single vehicle collision in which a deer was struck and killed east of Sundre, while the other crash occurred at an intersection on a rural gravel road where one motorist ran through and struck another vehicle. But there were no serious injuries as a result, he said.
Another two calls were for the department’s members to provide EMS assistance while the remaining two involved outdoor fires, one of which was a propane fire pit that was being used legally at a local camping facility, he said.
“Somebody phoned in that they had an illegal fire, and it turned out to be a propane fire pit,” he said.
“The other one actually was a very small warming fire that the people put out once we showed up,” he said, adding the people involved did not hesitate upon request to extinguish the blaze.
“They thought they could have it on their private land in a small fire pit. They had water there and just put it right out,” he said, adding there were no fines issued over the misunderstanding as they quickly complied.
Aside from those half dozen calls, Clews said, “It was a very quiet weekend…we were quite fortunate.”
With the welcome rainfall easing off the pressure on firefighters still battling blazes elsewhere in the province, the coalition of crew members from different departments throughout in the Mountain View County area have been stood down and are coming home, he added.
“They left Rainbow Lake yesterday,” he said. “They stayed in Peace River; they should be back in quarters sometime today.”
All of the units and equipment that was deployed is also all returning into service in the area, he said.
“They’re done up there with everything they had for structural protection and we’ll be back to normal unless we get requested to deploy again,” he said.
However, the rain does not mean Albertans are out of the woods yet, forgive the pun.
“Everybody has to be extremely aware that we have an elevated fire hazard province-wide this time,” he said.
As of Tuesday, May 23, the fire ban has been lifted in Mountain View County. Officials urge people to continue exercising extreme caution while burning and to also use precautionary measures such as screens and spark arrestors on burning barrels as well as cultivating areas surrounding controlled burns and also have a supply of water readily available at all times.
Areas located within provincial-government designated Forest Protection Areas – including the Rocky Mountain House Forest Area – remain under a fire ban and an off-highway vehicle prohibition.
As of today – Wednesday, May 24 – the Town of Sundre remains under a fire ban that has been in effect since May 5.