Fires already a concern

By Geoff Lee

April 21, 2016 12:00 AM

RCMP briefly closed a section of Highway 16 near Paynton on Monday afternoon due to poor visibility from smoke generated by a grassfire that was quickly contained.

Wildfire outbreaks have been reported this week on both sides of the border with a perfect storm of hot, dry and windy conditions in effect.
Of concern in the Lloydminster area is the immediate wildfire danger from farmers who are getting their equipment ready for seeding using welding and grinding tools that create sparks.
“We want to make if anybody is doing any of that kind of stuff, they’ve got some kind of fire extinguisher readily available to them in case things happen to go wrong for them,” said Capt. Aaron Buckingham, of the Britannia-Wilton Fire Department.
Buckingham also advises smokers to extinguish their smoking materials in a safe manner especially while driving.
“At this time of year we talk ad nausea about smoking materials and people driving and throwing cigarettes out windows and that kind of thing,” said Buckingham.
‘That’s something we never want to see happen.”
There were 43 active wildfires in Alberta as of noon Tuesday and six in Saskatchewan.
Maidstone RCMP closed all traffic briefly on Highway 16 Monday afternoon near Paynton due to poor visibility from blowing smoke from a large grassfire south of the highway.
The police reported a nearby business was at risk and approximately 15 scrap vehicles were lost due to fire and two other vehicles sustained damage.
The fire was put out by the Paynton and Maidstone fire departments with no extra assistance needed from the Britannia Wilton Fire Department.
“It’s a little far our of our area,” said Buckingham, who noted his department has a complete fire ban in effect since Monday after been called to put out four grassfires.
“The potential was there for a call on Saturday for disaster, but we were able to get that fire out before it spread to any structures. but it was close,” he said.
“We want to be very cautious.”
Buckingham said all four fires were accidental starts that can be prevented with the burning ban.
The ban includes all open fires, campfires and burn barrels in the RMs of Britannia and Wilton.
“So that’s all fires, recreational, smoke burning barrels — any of that kind of stuff — it’s all banned,” said Buckingham, who added all previous burning permits are revoked.
No permits will be issued until further notice.
“We’re in that time of year between spring and summer when things are brown and dry and conditions are absolutely ripe for fires, so we’d rather be proactive than reactive,” he said.
“So that’s the reason for the burning ban.”
Environment Canada is forecasting a 60 per cent chance of showers in the area this coming Monday, but Buckingham said that might not be enough to end the fire ban.
“It’s going to take a lot more than a little rain to make us reverse our decision on fire bans for sure,” he said.
Last year, wildfires in Alberta consumed nearly 492,000 hectares, an area more than seven times greater than Edmonton, and more than twice the 25-year average.
In Saskatchewan an early summer forest fire near Lac La Ronge in 2015 forced the evacuation of more than 13,000 from their homes.

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