Men face charges over grass fires
Wednesday, May 07, 2014 07:23 am
Two Sundre men are facing charges for allegedly igniting grass fires by reportedly shooting fireworks from their vehicle while driving along Highway 22 south of Longview last week.
Dale Christopher Aldrich, 21 and Marc Pierre Boulanger, 24, were charged with four counts of arson after grass fires were started within 10 kilometres of each other along the west side of Highway 22 at around noon on May 1.
“They were believed to be shooting fireworks out the window of a vehicle and that’s how it’s believed the fires started,” said Turner Valley RCMP Cpl. Tiffany McGregor.
McGregor said RCMP and fire crews were alerted to the fires quickly and the fast actions of the caller and emergency responders resulted in no damage to structures or danger to residents. She said low winds also played a role.
Firefighters from eight departments battled the five blazes, with the help of forestry workers and airplanes dropping fire retardants to smother the flames. Highway 22 was closed from 549 Avenue to Chain Lakes until 4 p.m. when the fires were contained, said Tom Kirk, Black Diamond Fire Department captain.
“The potential for risk hazard was huge if it jumped any barriers,” said Kirk. “It could have been in the foothills fairly quickly and it would have been fairly difficult to access.”
Kirk said Highway 22 was closed due to heavy smoke and to allow the emergency vehicles easy access to the blazes. He said firefighters came from Longview, Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Okotoks, Heritage Point, High River, Cayley and Nanton fire departments.
“It was a great amalgamation of all the resources in the area between structural fire and wild land fire,” he said. “There was houses in the area, there was an oil pipeline that we protected, that was our strategic priorities. It was such a potential risk.”
Kirk said the departments left the area by about 6 p.m. while the Longview Volunteer Fire Department stayed on to perform fire patrols.
“Consequences for something so little can obviously be so extreme, especially in dry conditions like this,” he said. “People don’t think about it but early spring and traditionally late spring are our busiest grass fire seasons.”
RCMP took three suspects into custody in the Crowsnest Pass the afternoon of May 1. Aldrich and Boulanger appeared before a Justice of the Peace and bail was set at $5,000. They are scheduled to appear in Turner Valley Provincial Court on June 3. The incident remains under investigation.