Fire risk high for harvest season in southern Alberta

Fire risk is high in southern Alberta during harvest season. Global News

A ready-to-harvest farm field in southern Alberta is full of fire-starting fuels with tinder-dry crops and grasses.

“Fire risk is extremely high right now. It’s as high as it has ever been,” added Magrath, Alta. area farmer Sean Stanford.

Stanford said with extremely hot temperatures and an early harvest, farmers are taking extra precautions while combing crops.

“We usually have a water truck in the field or we have a disk in the field to help break up the ground in front if there is a fire potentially. We also keep fire extinguishers on the combines,” said Stanford.

Magrath Fire Department Chief Cliff Blackwell said fighting a farm-related fire often is a community effort.

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“The farmers here, the moment they see a puff of smoke somewhere they are off to help their neighbours and we have great people in our area, colonies and things like that which are very helpful and beneficial,” he said.

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A number of things can cause a blaze during harvest. Standford said he works hard to ensure equipment is in good working order to try to prevent a situation.

“Usually on a daily basis we clean off the engine bay where the exhaust is so there is no chaff build-up from the crops on the exhaust of the engine. That’s a huge fire starting point. We blow off the batteries everyday,” added Stanford. “We try to keep as clean a machine as we can, it seems to really mitigate the risk of fire.”

The forecast for the coming days is above seasonal, and Blackwell added there are peak times of the day when farmers have to be more cautious.

“From the hours of about 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. is when our highest danger point is, because that is when our relative humidity usually crosses the weather index and that’s the time most fires start,” said Blackwell.

“Most farmers are aware of this so I just want them to be a little more conscious of sparking something off and be quick to call us, we are happy to help.”

With harvest just getting going, the risk is also just starting and everyone will be on high alert until all the crops are in the bin.

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