LAKELAND — With cooling and much needed rain being experienced in areas across the Lakeland region, some municipalities have lifted fire bans and restrictions, whereas some have opted to keep restrictions in place for now.
Fire restrictions remain in place for the County of St. Paul and Smoky Lake, but have been lifted in the MD of Bonnyville, Cold Lake, and Lac La Biche County.
Explaining the decision to maintain the fire restrictions that went into effect on July 6, St. Paul’s Fire Chief Trevor Kotowich said following the extremely dry spring, the County of St. Paul has not received an appreciable amount of moisture to change the fire restriction status.
“Certainly, there have been some rains, and we have experienced green up. However, the grass or duff underneath the green is extremely dry and a fire could run rather easily. Additionally, with the forecasted winds that we have been experiencing this week, there was absolutely no way we were considering lifting the restriction for the burning of brush piles or grass — That is a recipe for disaster,” said Kotowich.
With the current restrictions in place for St. Paul and Smoky Lake, residents are allowed safe campfires in campgrounds and in approved pits. However, no open fires are allowed to be ignited, this includes the burning of brush piles, grass and fields. Burn permits will also not be issued until the fire restrictions are lifted.
“Until such time when the winds die down and moisture is received, it will be my recommendation to the County to keep the fire restriction in place,” Kotowich added.
On Aug. 9, both the MD of Bonnyville and Lac La Biche County revoked their fire bans following suite with the changing status of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry hazard levels, which was reduced earlier that same day.
Dan Heney, the Regional Deputy Chief for Bonnyville said, “As roughly half of the MD of Bonnyville resides in the Forest Protection Area (FPA), we also closely follow what is being done by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. When evaluating their move, and all of the other local conditions, we made the decision to lift our fire advisory as well.”
He added, “Based on changing conditions there is always a possibility of one of the fire restriction levels being applied. The different levels are chosen based on the current risk levels and all have different restrictions.” In the most extreme conditions this means implementing a fire ban, but other measures can be taken, including a partial fire ban, fire restriction or fire advisory.
Lac La Biche’s Fire Chief John Kokotilo explains that the decision to be in step with Agriculture and Forestry for municipalities that boarder the FPA’s help to eliminate confusion for residents and campers in the area.
Kokotilo points out that on Aug. 11, the hazard level was raised to ‘high’ for the Lac La Biche FPA by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, but for now the advisory will remain lifted in Lac La Biche County.
For the time being, all permitting requests in the county will be done on a case-by-case basis by County Peace officers, said Kokotilo, who urges everyone “to be extremely cautious with any burning they conduct, whether it be a permitted fire or recreational fire.
“Do not leave fires unattended and make sure it's out,” he reiterated.
Within the Lac La Biche Forest Protection Areas there are currently three active wildfires. All three wildfires are under control, according to a statement by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.