Six fire calls in five days between April 13 and 17 have prompted the Britannia Wilton Fire Department to issue a partial fire ban.
“All burning permits that have been issued are revoked and there will be no burning permits issued until further notice,” said Capt. Aaron Buckingham. The fire ban does not apply to recreational fires as long as a firebox contains the pit.
Buckingham says a power transformer started the most recent fire, which occurred Friday afternoon. The previous four calls were for grass fires.
Buckingham says that at around 2:50 p.m. on Wednesday, crews tended to three separate fires along the Highway 16 railway tracks, east of Lloydminster. One of those fires caused a direct threat to dangerous goods carrying cars on the railway tracks. All three were contained without incident over a two-hour period.
Nearly 24 hours later, crews were called to a similar spot, past the location of the previous day’s fires. The department quickly extinguished three more fires along the railway tracks.
While responding to another call northeast of Lloydminster around Highway 3 and Range Road 3263, one crew stopped and put out another fire north of Lloydminster, along 4 mile road.
“A large grass fire was located and was directly threatening a least two homes and two oil lease sites,” said Buckingham, who added that flames were spreading quickly. “The quick response prevented damage to the properties. However, the fire had burned a full mile east and west and a total of four square miles. After four hours of intense fire fighting, the blaze was contained. Additional resources were also dispatched from the neighbouring Paradise Hill Fire Department as well as heavy equipment from both the RM of Britannia and numerous local land owners, machinery and local resident assistance.”
The first fire happened earlier in the week and was deemed a bale fire. The imposed burning ban would not have prevented any of the six fires, Buckingham says, which is why the department delayed announcing it until the end of the week.
“It’s dry enough out there so we’re doing this to err on the side of caution.”
Buckingham says none of the six fires appeared suspicious and it isn’t abnormal to have a series of fires around this time of year.
“A little bit of warmth and high winds will do a lot of drying really quickly,” he said. “We’ve got all of last fall’s dead grass that was growing up in the fall and now it’s tinder dry, thanks to the heat and the wind and it doesn’t take much. One little spark can get things going.”