Without a sustained rainfall, Chestermere Fire Services (CFS) Chief Brian Pomrenke is concerned that conditions in and around the city will be ripe for wildfire’s this year.
“We were unfortunate early in the spring, we had a lot of frost in the ground and we witnessed very quick run off of the snow,” said Pomrenke.
“Most of that water was all surface runoff, nothing really got retained in our soil,” he said.
With warm weather upon us and most people looking to enjoy the outdoors, Pomrenke said that without more moisture, people’s plans for campfires and backyard fire could be curtailed.
These dryer conditions can be found through the region east of Calgary.
Currently there is a Fire Advisory in the City of Chestermere.
Under the advisory, open fires in back yard fire pits are allowed, but CFS asks that residents be extra vigilant.
CFS recommends soaking the area around fire pits with water to extinguish any embers. They also want residents to have a source of water available nearby to extinguish fires.
“And when you’re finished with your fire, make sure that you’re soaking it down and making sure that all your embers are out,” said Pomrenke.
As all longtime residents of Alberta know, the weather is infinitely changeable, however in looking at the forecast, Pomrenke believes that the current Fire Advisory level is likely to remain in the city.
The recent cooler and wetter weather has helped to reduce the fire danger though.
“Precipitation is always good,” he said.
CFS works throughout the summer to monitor conditions in and around Chestermere to keep the fire hazard alerts up to date.
“We’re driving around Chestermere around our perimeter and we’re looking at our urban areas and our areas that’re built out, we’re also looking at our grasslands around us,” said Pomrenke.
The work that the city parks department does maintaining, and mowing ditches help to limit the spread of fire should one occur.
“When you do get a fire its very limited because you have very short grasses and it doesn’t take off nearly as much,” he said.
The maintenance work also makes it easier for fire crews to respond to and extinguish a fire.
In addition to monitoring the physical conditions in the area, CFS keeps an eye on the weather and forecasts for the region.
“We monitor forecasts and other avenues to determine whether or not we need to increase or decrease or remove the bans,” said Pomrenke.
So far this spring the weather has been very warm in Rocky View and Wheatland Counties as well as south of the city.
Pomrenke said that by monitoring a larger area than just Chestermere allows them to make predictions on what they are likely to see in the city.
Since fire bans change with the conditions, Pomrenke encourages residents to check frequently on the current fire hazard both in the city as well as if they are going out camping.
The best places to check are the city website and AlbertaFireBans.ca, which provides information on fire hazard levels across the province.
“So regardless of where you live in the province, Chestermere included, you can go on there and it’ll give you an excerpt of what that ban is,” said Pomrenke.
Staying local, CFS has introduced a new simpler fire hazard reporting system.
“People will notice on our website that we’ve changed the way we relay the information on our fire bans,” said Pomrenke, “it’s very simple, it’s very similar with the colour maps that forestry uses.”
In addition to the colour levels ranging from green for no ban to red for a ban, the city’s website also details what is allowed during the different hazard levels.
“Depending on what level we’re in it’ll dictate what you can and cannot do as far as burning,” said Pomrenke, “with no ban obviously, there’s burning in your fire pit and your burning dry wood.”
There is also information online about what is permitted for backyard fire pits in Chestermere.
“How and where you should be building your fire pit, what it should be constructed underneath it, what you can make the fire pit, the size of the fire pit and finally the screening that goes overtop that keeps the larger ember from floating up in the air and drifting away on you,” he said.
When there is no ban, Pomrenke reminds people to be respectful of their neighbour when enjoying backyard fires.
“If its windy and blowing towards their homes maybe it’s time to put your fire out and be respectful in your neighbourhood,” he said.
Anyone with questions about fire bans or safety in Chestermere are encouraged to call CFS at 403-272-9878 or go online to www.chestermere.ca.