After a long, snowy season, the dry grass is free of the winter snowpack and tinder dry, warns Stettler District Fire Chief Mark Dennis.
Dennis has put a fire permit restriction in place after five grass fires in the past week have had the volunteer fire department responding to roasting fields.
“It’s not a fire ban,” Dennis said. “People can still burn in burning barrels so long as they have a proper screen, or a campfire in a proper fire pit with a screen.”
At least one of the fires was caused by an individual burning rubbish in a fire barrel without a proper screen, Dennis revealed. A spark, caught by the wind, set the paper-dry grass on fire. Another over the weekend, near Big Valley, was caused when a transformer sparked and the wind threw the spark into the grass. That fire, fanned by the windy day, burned about a quarter-mile by a quarter-mile, Dennis said.
The fire, on a meadow with a ravine, was not easily accessible.
“(Wild fires) are not unusual at this time of year,” Dennis said. “People should just be more cautious and do essential burning only.”
Until the grass is turning green, Dennis said the risk of wildfires remains high. While the county did receive a fair bit of snow over the winter, there was very little frost in the ground, so the water was absorbed right away.
“The May long weekend is coming,” Dennis said. “By having the word out now we’re hoping people will be careful.”
The restriction of fire permits will prevent people from burning grass or brush on their property, but will not restrict the use of burning barrels or fire pits.