Southern Alberta farmers asked to help prevent grass fires during harvest

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WATCH: With no shortage of grass fires in recent weeks, southern Alberta farmers are being asked to take precautions to help control and stop the spread of fires. Katelyn Wilson reports – Aug 21, 2017

With harvesting underway, it’s a busy time for farmers. But the hot and dry conditions are also making it a busy time for firefighters in the Municipal District of Willow Creek.

“We have five stations within the M.D. of Willow Creek so we respond from Nanton, all the way to Fort Macleod,” Deputy Fire Chief, Kelly Starling said.

READ MORE: Smoke from Fort Macleod-area grass fire seen from Lethbridge

Three of the grass fires were caused by farm equipment and now farmers are being urged to make sure they’re maintaining their equipment properly.

“Throughout the day, walk around your equipment blow off the chaff piles,” Lieutenant Neil Schuler said.

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The hot weather is another factor farmers are being asked to keep in mind along with having water on-site to help stop the spread of fire once it starts.

“Our guys are volunteers even if they’re in the hall, by the time they get out there we’re looking at 20 to 30 minutes before we are even out there,” he said. “If they can contain the fire until we get there or in a lot of cases put it out.”

But it’s not just farmers firefighters are worried about. Since the fire ban was put in place in May, firefighters have responded to around 16 grass fires.

READ MORE: Campfire blamed for large grass fire in Lethbridge

Some from people throwing cigarette buts out the windows and others from people ignoring the ban and having campfires.

“We’re asking people to follow our instructions with the fire ban. They’re there for a reason so if we ask you not to have a fire it’s for a reason it’s extremely dry and can get away,” Starling said.

With a number of grass fires the volunteers have responded to lately, it’s starting to take a toll.

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“It’s very taxing these big grass fires last hours,” Schuler said. “Any kind of structures that get involved or hay bails or straw bails that go up in flames take a very long time.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge fire crews extinguish large grass fire

It also costs a lot of money for both the department and for the person who caused the fire.

“You are billed for our services so we’re asking you to make sure your insurance is topped up, go talk to your insurance agent and make sure your insurance is where it should be,” Starling said. “It costs us time and money for our volunteers and it causes wear and tear on our trucks.”

With no sign of the fire ban being lifted anytime soon, everyone is being asked to report any sign of fire, including smoke, right away.

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