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'We can only do so much': Fire ban issued for Edmonton after string of grass fires

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services has issued a fire ban for the City of Edmonton as a result of the dry, hot and windy conditions.

The ban prohibits open burning, fireworks, backyard fire pits, cooking stoves and

barbecues that use fuels such as wood and briquettes.

Barbecues that use propane or gas are still permitted, but must be properly supervised.

"We can’t speculate when we will lift this ban as that is dependent on rainfall," Acting Fire Chief David Lazenby told reporters on Tuesday.

"We're asking the people of Edmonton to help us help them. We can only do so much, and we need their assistance to help reduce risk to help us get through the next period of time while conditions are as dry as they are."

Lazenby said compliance will be emphasized over enforcement when dealing with the ban, but anyone who does not comply may be subject to fines or charges, including costs for emergency services.

"We know that it imposes on people and limits what people can do, and we’re very mindful of that, so we want to do it in a very appropriate way."

"Not everyone will know there is a fire ban, so if one of your neighbours is just unaware and they’re having a backyard fire or something like that, have a conversation. Let's help one another keep people safe."

In addition to announcing the ban, Lazenby asked smokers to be particularly careful when discarding butts.

"Carelessly discarded cigarette butts are sadly a common cause of such fires, and we would ask that anybody that does smoke to just be very mindful."

He also said EFRS is working with outreach workers to ensure people living in camps outdoors receive fire safety education.

"We do worry about the people in encampments. We care about the people in encampments, we care about everyone in the community. People need to survive, people need to get by. We don’t condone open flames in any type of environment, but we do understand that people need to eat and keep warm," he said.

"We're trying to be proactive in that regard and do what we can to minimize the risk for those people as well."

Lazenby went on to thank firefighters who have responded to a number of grass and structure fires over recent days.

"I want to acknowledge the tremendous work of our firefighters and dispatchers who’ve worked tirelessly over the last couple of weeks facing the challenging grass fire situations we’ve had to deal with," he said. "They’ve protected lives and property endlessly, and they’ll continue to do so."

As of April 30, the city said Edmonton has seen 185 brush, grass, or wildland fires of varying sizes.

Six of those fires posed threats to nearby structures.

On Monday, firefighters were called to brush or grass fires in west Edmonton, Ellerslie and Wayne Gretzky Drive, and structure fires in Terwillegar and downtown.

Crews were still on scene in west Edmonton Tuesday morning, working in brush near 111 Avenue and 189 Street. No flames were visible but the area was still smoky.

EFRS said the blaze was still considered active.

"Fires on this scale tend to smoulder for a while, so just as a precaution we often keep crews on scene just to make sure if there’s any hot spots we can kind of address them so they don’t become as big as they were," Lazenby said.

Three grass fires were also extinguished on Monday in St. Albert's Grandin area.

In two cases over the last week, sections of Anthony Henday Drive have been closed down as crews worked to battle fires.

Lazenby acknowledged this is an unusual step.

"To take the significant step of closing down something like the Henday is not something we take lightly, but sometimes it needs to be done to protect both first responders, and also members of the public."

While conditions are dry now, Lazenby said they can change quickly.

"The fortunate thing is it’s a fairly superficial level of dryness, because we haven't had sustained long periods of high temperatures without precipitation," he said.

"We will get through this, then hopefully we can enjoy the summer conditions and all the activities we like to enjoy over the summer months." Top Stories

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