If you’re a life-time Albertan, or even remotely familiar with our summers, then you know that our province struggles a lot when it comes to forest fires throughout the summer months. Most of the province doesn’t get the rain it needs to aid in wildfire prevention, leaving us with forests full of the perfect dry conditions for a wildfire. When the forest floor is left without rain for weeks, even a small cigarette butt can cause a massive forest fire.
Not all fires can be prevented, like those caused by lightning. But we can all play a huge role in wildfire prevention with a few simple reminders and being cautious about our burning. Here are some common causes of wildfires and what we can do together to help prevent as many as we can.
One of the more common causes of fires, lightning, is sadly not something we have control over. Millions of hectares of land have been burned from one lighting strike in a dry area. While a forest fire can be an important event for a forest, one that wipes out massive areas is harmful to surrounding residential areas and the wildlife residing in that forest.
Wildfire prevention is 100% in our hands when it comes to a campfire. Summers are short in Alberta and everyone is eager to be outdoors enjoying every minute they can during the warm days and that’s great. But there are still many campers who do not extinguish fires properly, or ignore them while they are burning. Have you ever been sitting at a campfire when a log goes “POP” and a small piece of burning wood flies out? That tiny piece of burning coal is enough to burn down millions of hectares of trees.
Always keep a large bucket of water at the fire (backyard or campground) and be sure to rake through the coals as you pour the water to ensure everything is being put out properly. You should also take care to watch your campfires for any flying papers or burning debris. Find and extinguish any piece that may fly out of the firepit.
Another form of wildfire prevention that is completely up to us. Many people think that because there is no “flame” at the end of a cigarette butt that it is not capable of starting a fire. But that is not the case. When the forest floor has gone weeks or months without a good soaking of rain, one small cigarette butt can ignite the dead leaves and grass and cause a wildfire.
If you’re a smoker and you’re out for a stroll through the forest, bring along a small container to put your butts in while you’re outside and dispose of them in a proper garbage can later. Consider putting a bit of water in the container as well to ensure they get put out properly. If you’re driving, do not throw your butts out the window, they can land in a dry ditch and cause a fire there as well. Keep them in your car and dispose of them later.
Report Unattended Fires
Whether you are camping and see a fire pit burning, or you’ve spotted the start to a natural forest fire, you need to report it immediately. Do your part in wildfire prevention and call right away. Your phone call can save lives and entire forests.
Have you noticed that most cities that do a fireworks display for special occasions do them on the water? This isn’t just because they felt like a boat ride…they do these large firework displays out in the open water to steer clear of land and trees. Any burning remains of a firework will land in the water, not in a dry forest.
If you are using even the smallest of backyard fireworks, do not do so when there is a local fire ban on.
Don’t Burn During a Fire Ban
Yep, it sucks when a fire ban puts a damper on your weekend plans. But you know what sucks more? A fine of up to $100,000 and possible jail time. Alberta has put stricter punishments in place for anyone that causes a wildfire during a fire ban.
When we go for long stretches without rain, your town or city will put a fire ban in place. These bans allow only propane BBQs or fire bowls and there is no burning of wood, brush or charcoal during a fire ban. If you have camping plans and need something for cooking, be sure to have a propane camping stove on hand. Fire bans go into place for a good reason.
Create a Firebreak
What is a firebreak? A firebreak is a section of land that gets cleared of anything flammable (grass, sticks, logs, trees etc). You’ll often see them along farm land near a road. These firebreaks are created so that if a forest fire starts, it will not have any fuel to continue burning once it reaches the break. Tall trees are capable of falling across a road and sending sparks to the next side which then causes the fire to spread. A firebreak is a really great wildfire prevention method, especially for those out in the country.
If you’re wanting to create a firebreak but don’t have the proper equipment needed to clear the land and larger trees, get the help of an arborist who has the machinery needed for a proper firebreak. Pevach Corp has some of the best equipment in the industry and is ready to tackle the task. We can completely clear the area of any type of “fuel”, keeping your land and your neighbours safe.
Wildfire prevention doesn’t have to be complicated or something that we feel stops us from enjoying our summer campfires. But by simply being smart, creating firebreaks, burning smart and reporting fires, we can help do our part.