Fire restrictions in county

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Sturgeon County officials are clamping down on outdoor fires this week due to a risk of wildfires.

County fire chief Pat Mahoney issued a fire restriction on Sunday. The county has suspended all fire and fireworks permits and will not be issuing new ones until further notice.

The restriction follows massive wildfires that are currently raging in Bruderheim and Westlock County. Two county fire crews and trucks were called in to help fight the latter blaze on Saturday.

Mahoney said he issued this fire restriction due to the hot, dry conditions the county had experienced in recent days.

“When you have those two (elements), high temperature and low humidity, that’s a recipe for fires.”

Backyard fire pits, propane barbecues and the like are still allowed, he continued, adding that he wanted people to be able to enjoy those services during the coming long weekend. Use common sense when lighting those, however, and keep them doused if there’s a lot of wind out.

Morinville fire chief Bradley Boddez put out a fire advisory Monday afternoon for similar reasons. Lingering soil frost meant that much of the water that flooded Sturgeon in recent weeks simply ran off without being absorbed, which has made for a dry surface that’s easy to light.

“We need some moisture. We need some rain,” he said.

Morinville doesn’t allow open fires, so Boddez said his notice was more of a reminder for people to be careful with their approved barbecues and backyard fire pits. Fire pits must have spark arrestors and must not be used to burn debris or yard waste.

St. Albert fire chief Keven Lefebvre said Monday morning that he didn’t plan to issue a fire ban yet.

“Knock on wood, we’ve had no grass fires yet,” he said, and the fields around here are pretty green.

“There’s really nothing to burn.”

Lefebvre said the city should be fine when it comes to wildfires so long as no one starts one intentionally.

Mahoney said the fire season so far hasn’t been too bad in the county. Crews have responded to about 14 grass fires since April 30, about six of which were on Saturday. Errant sparks from welding or grinding and improperly extinguished open fires caused many of those blazes. The Westlock and Bruderheim fires were quite far from the county’s borders and unlikely to spread to this region.

Mahoney advised residents to thoroughly extinguish any fires they start and to check on any extinguished open burn sites, as they may have re-ignited.

Anyone who spots a fire should immediately call 911, Boddez said.

“The faster we can get on top of them, the better.”

Watch albertafirebans.ca to stay up-to-date on Alberta’s fire bans.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.