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Play with fire, we all get burned


  |  Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2014 06:00 am

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The spring winds have typically blown over the last month, but there was nothing typical about a call the fire department received Monday.

Firefighters were called to a grassy area near Fountain Park Recreation Centre along Cunningham Road to extinguish an intentionally set fire. The little blaze was no match for the local fire department, so some might wonder why St. Albert RCMP subsequently charged a 15-year-old boy with arson in relation to the incident.

Charges laid by the RCMP reflect the seriousness of the event. Police and fire services recognized how dry the grassy area was, with residential neighbourhoods and Paul Kane High School nearby.

Readers will remember the awful destruction caused in Slave Lake by a wildfire that roared through that community. The fire, as of summer 2013, is estimated to have caused about $700 million in damage, destroying more than 400 homes, public facilities and causing untold amounts of emotional pain and loss to residents, some of whom lost everything they owned.

The RCMP, with help from the provincial government, investigated the Slave Lake fire for five-and-a-half months, and was able to eliminate causes such as lightning strikes which are closely recorded by provincial weather watchers.

Police eventually stated the fire was deliberately set, with Sustainable Resource Minister Frank Oberle adding, “the probable cause of the fire that burned more than 400 homes and other structures in Slave Lake was arson.”

To date, no one has ever been charged in the fire.

Hundreds of firefighters helped fight another blaze last summer, the so-called Black Forest Fire in Colorado, that started in that area on June 9. By June 20, the fire had burned 14,280 acres, destroyed about 486 homes and killed two people. Later estimates described the value of lost homes alone at about $90 million.

The Black Forest Fire is to date the largest in that state’s history, so large, in fact, that firefighters were called in from across North America to fight it, which isn’t unusual.

Investigators continue to examine the blaze this year, and have openly stated the fire’s cause was “not natural.”

Arson can have deadly, devastating effects. Given the dry, windy conditions and the proximity of a school and neighbourhoods, the charge against the 15-year-old is warranted, and hopefully the seriousness of the charge will serve as a deterrent.


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