Edmontonians disobey fire ban; crews respond to 50 calls in 24 hours

String of Edmonton fires has officials urging caution
WATCH ABOVE: Last week, dry and windy conditions prompted the Alberta government to issue a province-wide fire ban. But not everyone seems to be getting the message. As Sarah Kraus reports, Edmonton firefighters have been working tirelessly to put out several grass fires recently, one of which spread to nearby homes.

Dry conditions, hot weather and strong winds prompted the City of Edmonton to declare a fire ban late Thursday, but residents are not getting the message.

Since then, Edmonton Fire Rescue has responded to 174 calls of people disobeying the bylaw.

“It’s disappointing that for some reason it’s taken this long for people to appreciate the risk that’s out there and respond appropriately to it,” said Fire Chief Ken Block.

Mayor Don Iveson echoed that sentiment.

“Edmonton Fire Rescue has spent way too much time over the last few days putting out brush fires and responding to complaints of people who have illegal fire pits over the weekend.”

“When the fire chief says there’s a fire ban, that means don’t use your fire pit. Everybody got it? Okay.”

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“No fire pits, no charcoal barbecues, no sparks, no flicking your cigarettes butts – I mean, you shouldn’t do that anyway, but especially at a time like this. It’s carelessness like that that has cost some houses in the west end.”

There were three serious fires in Edmonton on Sunday, including one that spread to houses, destroying two of them.

“We were very, very lucky we didn’t hurt some people there, or lose some more structures,” the chief explained.

He said firefighters are working around the clock – “they’ve been taxed – to the limit. For sure.”

“I would hope that what would get people to wise up here is that the last thing they want to do is cause a disaster like we’ve seen affect our neighbours in Fort McMurray,” Iveson said.

“It’s alarming for us all after seeing what we’ve seen in Fort McMurray.”

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“Really, our emergency responders have better things to do than responding to people who are irresponsibly burning or discarding cigarette butts for example,” he added.

READ MORE: Fire in Wolf Willow damages homes, one of several fires burning in Edmonton’s River Valley Sunday

“As everybody knows, there’s a fire ban on due to the dry conditions and the wind conditions,” Deputy Chief Scott MacDonald said. “So it’s very important everyone works together and obeys the fire ban. We’ve had a very large spike for calls about fire pit complaints.”

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Watch below: WATCH ABOVE: The danger of the extremely dry conditions around the province hit close to home. Erin Chalmers joined Global News Morning live from west Edmonton, where a one of several brush fires on Sunday quickly got out of hand and damaged area homes.

Brush fire rips through west Edmonton, damages area homes
Brush fire rips through west Edmonton, damages area homes

According to the city, a fire ban “prohibits open burning, fireworks, backyard fire pits, cooking stoves in parks, and BBQs using solid fuels.”

The chief says that means “anything that can produce a spark or an ember is not okay, not allowed.”

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Barbeques are permitted, but should be watched carefully, he added.

“Pretty much all of Northern Canada is tinder dry right now and that includes Edmonton,” the mayor said. “So there is a province-wide fire ban, but we’ve also instituted – at the fire chief’s directive – a city-wide fire ban.”

The website says generally, Edmonton Fire Rescue will try to issue a warning before resorting to a fine.

“We really need people to comply,” Iveson stressed.

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“There’s a $250 fine if you’re not. But if a fire that arises from a discarded cigarette butt or backyard fire pit or illegal burning results in substantial damage, it could go a lot higher and there could be criminal charges.”

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If you see someone starting a fire, the city is encouraging people to remind others about the ban, but if they don’t listen you are asked to call 911.

READ MORE: Alberta-wide fire ban in place as extremely dry conditions sweep province

In the wake of the fires in Fort McMurray, the entire province of Alberta is currently under a fire ban.