Message from Glen Durand, Special Areas Fire Chief
With spring conditions soon upon us, I wanted to take a moment to share some of the challenges our fire departments and volunteer firefighters face each year with spring weather. It is my hope this information will help you better understand why we are particularly cautious and mindful when we are talking about controlled burns, and to help you appreciate precautions which need to be taken.
With spring comes wind. Wind dries out grasses, vegetation litter, and other fuel sources for fires. Wind dries out these materials no matter the temperature, so a windy day in April - even if it is cold out - will still cause an increase in fire hazards throughout our region. Winds also contribute to rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior if a fire was to occur. This raises the hazard level for fires during this time of year. Besides increased winds, spring means melting snow, softening ground, and other natural impediments for local fire departments. Soft ground conditions coupled with flooded areas can mean real challenges for our fire departments. Oftentimes in spring, our fire departments are managing limited access when responding to fire calls. Suppression efforts can do lots of damage to landscapes and native grasslands, sometimes even more than the fire itself. We do our very best to minimize this damage, but sometimes difficult ground conditions and limited access points really take away a lot of options for responding fire departments.
COVID-19 continues to change almost everything about our day-to-day lives. Fire departments are not immune to these changes as well. Volunteer firefighters are a scarce and limited resource, and we need your help to reduce the risks they face as they respond to calls. We are doing our best to help mitigate the risk of spreading this virus throughout our departments. We are splitting shifts, using social distancing to reduce contact within departments, eliminating group gatherings and practices, and being especially mindful of hand hygiene and other preventative measures. We need you to do your part as well. Every call our departments respond to translates into a risk of the virus spreading throughout our group of volunteers. So the fewer calls departments are called to respond to - and the smaller the size of the fires - means less risk to our volunteer fire departments. Some of our departments have minimal membership, meaning we may not have the option of only sending a part of the department to respond to a fire.
Many fires we see each year happen as a result of factors we cannot control: weather like lightning strikes and wind storms, downed power lines and other environmental hazards. But many fires - especially during the spring - are preventable. Human caused fires account for many preventable fires each spring, from grassfires resulting from unsupervised or poorly managed controlled burns to the careless disposal of cigarettes and hot works. We are working very closely with our ratepayers and residents to make sure all controlled burns are managed effectively and have as low as risk as possible. I want to thank all ratepayers and residents of the Special Areas for using the system we have in place - the Controlled Burn Notification system - to help fire departments manage risks which come from controlled burns. Your compliance with the conditions we set out for controlled burns translates into fewer calls, fewer fires, and less damage to property in our region. Beyond using the Controlled Burn Notification system, I want to encourage all ratepayers and residents to begin proactively applying the FireSmart principles to your residences, your property, your equipment, and your operations. You can learn more about FireSmarting - and how to apply it - with our Grassfire Safety Kits. These free kits walk you through the different actions you can take to reduce your risks from grassfires.
- SAB Grassfire Safety
- FireSmart Priority Zone Poster
- FireSmart Home Owners Manual
- FireSmart Home Owners Assessment
- Safe Burning - Burning Barrels
Thank you for your continued support of our local fire departments, and our volunteer firefighters. Thank you to those who answer the call, often under challenging and stressful conditions. I encourage all ratepayers and residents in our region to take a moment to think about how you can help reduce your risks from grassfires and other hazards this spring.
Take Care, Keep Safe, and Yours in Fire Prevention,
Special Areas Fire Chief