With a hot and dry summer expected this year, fire departments across the province are gearing up for what could be a very busy wildfire season.
According to North Battleford’s Fire Chief Albert Headrick, the town's fire department is already seeing conditions conducive to wildfires due to the low moisture levels experienced this winter and spring.
“The amount of snow and precipitation we’ve got to date is very minimal. If you look at the outside conditions now, you look at the moisture in the ground, there’s some concern at this point that if it continues in this fashion without any precipitation we’re going to be looking at some fire bans,” he said.
However that doesn’t mean staff at the department is sitting back and waiting for the flames to appear. Headrick said in conjunction with the Rural Municipality of North Battleford and the Battleford Fire Department they have identified potential problem areas which they hope to address by back-cutting foliage as well as conducting controlled burns.
It’s not all on the professionals to prevent fires though. Local fire departments work with the province to identify the threat of a wildfire at any particular time and place, and issue fire bans which can range from a complete ban on fire, to the banning of opening air burning of refuse while still allowing approved fire pits to operate. Fines for violating a fire ban can reach up to $1,000 depending on the situation, and can be even more for businesses, but according to Headrick violations aren’t generally an issue.
“We haven’t had any issues whatsoever, our residents and... North Battleford residents are very cognizant when we put a fire ban on. They know the reasons why and they collectively work with us to ensure the fire ban is not violated.”
Even cooperation during a fire ban can’t prevent all wildfires caused by humans, which make up a large portion of blazes in the summer months. Headrick said something as simple as flicking a lit cigarette out a car window can lead to a large fire, and if the cause of the fire can be traced back to an individual they could be responsible for footing the bill of the response.
Crews across the province have already dealt with a number of wildfires this season including two in the Battlefords area over the last week, as well as one in the Paynton area which shut down the highway.
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