The MD of Foothills Fire Department has issued a fire ban for the area effective noon on July 31 and it will continue until the region sees enough rain to reduce the fire risk.
The ban includes the entire MD of Foothills area, Okotoks and High River are currently not included in the ban. Fire bans are also in place in Black Diamond, Turner Valley and Crowsnest Pass.
The foothills has been under a fire advisories over the last month but the MD's fire chief Jim Smith said they decided to cancel all fire permits and ban open burning due to the exceptionally dry conditions.
“That means that there is no open fires, any backyard burning, burning barrels, no open burning,” he said. “You still can use your barbeque and your camp stoves, that's OK.”
Smith also wanted to remind residents to dispose of their cigarette butts in an approved container and not to toss them out the window as they have the potential to start a grass fire. The fire warning level in the area is currently “very high”, and Smith said the current conditions would allow a fire to progress rapidly.
“There's been a lack of moisture, we've had some rain so it's helped the grass, but it hasn't really helped the trees at all because the trees take a lot longer to absorb the moisture,” Smith said of the risks. “We've only had four or five fires in the last week, so right now it's not as high as it has been but we really want to put everything in check and put prevention on the forefront of peoples minds rather than reactionary.”
If you are found with an open fire in an area with a fire ban, you can be fined $250 to $10,000 under the Foothills Fire Services Bylaw.
Okotoks and High River are currently not included in the ban as the Okotoks and High River fire departments would be responsible for issuing a ban in their own municipalities.
Okotoks deputy fire chief Pat MacIsaac said that they are keeping a close eye on the fire conditions, but are still allowing backyard fire pits as long as they comply with the guidelines on the Town's website.
“Our open burning bylaw is pretty restrictive and we don't feel the need to go above that,” he said, noting conditions will be evaluated before any fire permits are issued and each is done on a case-by-case basis.
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