BONNYVILLE – On July 19, the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA) implemented a Fire Advisory for the MD of Bonnyville, Summer Village of Bonnyville Beach, Summer Village of Pelican Narrows, and Village of Glendon.
The advisory followed a move by the Lac La Biche Fire Centre on July 18 to increase the status of the Lac La Biche Forest Area, which overlaps the northern portion of the MD, to a Fire Advisory noting a “very high wildfire danger.”
Under the Fire Advisory no new fire permits will be issued for non-essential burning. However, existing fire permits will still be allowed to take place, as well as the use of Burn Barrels with screens, fire pits, fireworks and safe campfires.
“It's about managing risk while doing as much as we can to not impact what people do,” said Regional Fire Chief Dan Heney with the BRFA.
“We expect this fire advisory to reduce the number of human-caused wildfires in the municipality while allowing Albertans to enjoy outdoor activities as much as possible.”
Even though fires might start from natural occurrences such as lightning strikes, the goal is to reduce fires caused by people, Heney says, referring to the recent fires caused by a faulty trailer on Highway 660 or fires sparked from cigarette butts and exhaust pipes from off-highway vehicles.
People are asked to be aware of the risks of fires.
“You start with a fire advisory, and our hope is that this limits the fires that are created by people... When we do stuff like this, it is to make people sit up and take notice,” Heney added.
Hot and windy weather
The decision by Forestry Alberta to move to an advisory for the Forest Area is due to current and forecasted weather conditions and humidity levels.
“We were supposed to get a cold front come through but then that cold front disappeared,” said Heney. “Now, the expected weather for the next two weeks is over 25 degrees every day with wind. The winds dry things out and the humidity levels are expected to be really low.”
The concern is that the weather will bring “crossover conditions,” which means that the relative humidity is less than, or equal to, the ambient air temperature.
“When a crossover happens that's when we start to get a little antsy, because those conditions provide for wildland fires to become what's known as ‘explosive’ or ‘flashy’ burning conditions. So, a small fire can blow up to something really big, really quickly in those conditions,” he said.
When Forestry Alberta reviewed the upcoming forecast and current conditions, they implemented an advisory for the Lac La Biche Forest Area. The BRFA reviewed the situation and made the decision to follow suit by implementing their own advisory the following day.
“Forestry has people (whose) specialty is monitoring these conditions, that’s their job and evaluating is what they do. They've got the resources to do a much better job in evaluating forest fire risk. If they were concerned enough to put an advisory down, generally we're going to do the same,” said Heney.
If conditions worsen, Forestry Alberta and the BRFA could follow by implementing either a Fire Restriction or Fire Ban.
To monitor for any updates or changes to fire bans in the province, people can visit www.albertafirebans.ca
For further information residents are encouraged to contact the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority 780-826- 4755.
No advisory for St. Paul region
Over in the County of St. Paul, no type of fire advisory has put in place yet.
“With the amount of moisture we saw in late May and June we experienced green-up rather quickly. Now with saying that, it is extremely dry out there, and the forecast looks like it will be that way for some time,” said St. Paul Fire Chief Trevor Kotowich.
Fire Services, along with the County of St. Paul, will continue to monitor the conditions, and will adjust accordingly, adds Kotowich.
“In the meantime, we ask people to continue to enjoy themselves, and make sure their fire is completely out before leaving the area.”
*With files from Janice Huser