Pam asked our Fire Chief, Jamie Campbell, about the busy year the department has had and the following are his responses.
We have responded to 193 events so far in 2017 which is about a 9% increase to date in responses over 2016. It is difficult to give you man hours without looking at all 193 calls but to give you the extremes and some of our longer response, we had 4 folks at the Chimney Rock Road fire south of Chain Lakes for 10 hours and another four of us there for 22 hours. The recent fire in Turner Valley there were 8 of us there on the initial night for 5 hours. Obviously not all of our responses are that long in duration but as you can see it is a significant commitment when we respond to major events in and around our community.
Fire bans are implemented depending upon the conditions and amount of moisture or lack thereof during the summer months. We tend to match our colleagues in other communities to support the risk reduction across the MD including our own community. Burn permits are very rarely issued within the Town of Black Diamond due to the significant risk of homes and businesses. Rural residents with more space can contact the MD of Foothills during business hours to be connected with someone who can issue a burn permit.
As for having a fire in your back yard in town it needs to be in approved pit made of non-combustible material, have a screen on top to help reduce sparks, be 3 metres or greater away from combustibles and not be out of control. There are varying levels of burn bans that we can utilize in the municipality that range from awareness to complete ban including the campground as we experienced this past summer due to the dry conditions. As we have seen in the media this past summer and fall have been volatile with the winds and dry conditions, which make managing those large fires difficult. Therefore we often air on the side of caution and implement bans within the community.
Limiting Fire Risks
We do not have the same risks as communities that border up against the forest but all residence should consider length of grass around their homes, wood piles stacked against homes etc as perfect places for sparks to land from an out of control wildfire approaching our community. We are surrounded by farm land which can have crop or grass that pushed by the wind can be hard to manage, so every small precaution homeowners take will potentially reduce their risk.
Now is a good time to remind folks to check their smoke detectors every six months to ensure they are functioning, ensure batteries are changed, replace them if greater than ten years old and do the same for your Carbon Monoxide detectors.
Jamie Campbell, BAppsBES, Fire Chief, SCO, DEM
Town of Black Diamond