One of the biggest causes of wildfires in Alberta isn’t lightning; it’s recreation. Campfires, off-highway vehicle use, and other activities on the land cause hundreds of wildfires every year – and all of these are 100 per cent preventable.
Don’t let our cold spring fool you. As this past weekend’s wildfire near Whitecourt reminds us, we’re in the thick of wildfire season – and it’s more important than ever to use caution.
We’ve talked before on the blog about how off-highway vehicle riders can minimize wildfire risk. It’s just as easy to ensure that your campfire doesn’t become a wildfire – just follow these A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s:
SELECT THE BEST SITE POSSIBLE:
a) At a campground, use the stoves, rings and fire pits that are usually available. These are designed to keep fires from spreading and are an easy and safe choice.
b) Use sites that are clear from dry grass, heavy bushes, leaves, logs, tree trunks, peat areas and overhanging branches. If you can, re-use a site that has already been used for a campfire.
c) Build your campfires on level ground that is sheltered from the wind. A breeze can carry sparks from your fire to flammable material elsewhere.
PREPARE YOUR CAMPFIRE:
a) The tools you need: a shovel or spade, an axe or hatchet, a large water container full of water and a small fire extinguisher are ideal.
b) Prepping the site: make a circle about 1 metre around. Dig or scrape down to the mineral soil. Clear away any flammable materials within a metre of the pit.
c) Building the fire: use split kindling, small branches or dry mosses to start your fire. Add larger pieces of wood gradually until you have a steady fire.
PUT YOUR CAMPFIRE OUT:
a) Let the fire burn down well before you plan on putting it out. Spread the embers around in the fire pit and then add water or loose dirt and stir.
b) Expose any material still burning and then add more water or loose dirt until you can no longer see smoke or steam. Don’t bury your fire and leave it – embers will continue to smolder and can re-emerge as a wildfire.
c) If your fire is out, you will not be able to feel any heat from the ashes.
Make sure you check for fire bans before heading out. And remember: if a person is found guilty of starting a wildfire in Alberta, he or she can be fined up to $5,000 and held liable for all costs associating with fighting that fire. Extinguish your campfire no matter what season it is. Soak it, stir the ashes and soak it again.