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Promoting fire safety
Residents reminded to get burn permits

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 10, 2012

Officials with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) are asking Deh Cho residents to think twice before lighting fires.

"People may think there's no chance of a forest fire," said Loyal Letcher, the department's manager of forests for the Deh Cho region.

Letcher said grassy areas and fine fuels such as twigs are actually quite dry after the snow melts and before vegetation starts to turn green.

"If there's a little bit of wind a fire can take off," he said.

Between May 1 and Sept. 30 people are required to obtain a Permit to Burn from ENR before lighting fires as part of their yard work or brush clearing. The free permits help the department track where fires are being lit, Letcher said.

When people acquire a permit, they are also told about what conditions to avoid. Fires shouldn't be lit if the temperature is warmer than 25 C or if it is windy, said Letcher.

Fires should also be kept at least 10 metres from the edge of the forest and piles of material to be burned should be no bigger than one metre by one metre.

As part of using their good judgment, people should also have rakes, hand tools and water on hand in case their fire gets out of control, he said.

In communities, grass fires are the main concern, Letcher said.

"There's a tendency for grass fires this time of year," he said.

Within the next few weeks, staff with the department will run their fire prevention campaign in schools and communities in the region.

Work will also be done to promote the FireSmart Program.

In the last few years, every community in the Deh Cho has completed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

High risk areas

Letcher said the next step is to work with the communities to implement some of the recommendations in the plans such as FireSmarting high-risk areas.

One example of a high risk area is the Wild Rose subdivision in Fort Simpson, where houses are on the edge of the forest, said Letcher.

The department is encouraging residents in Wild Rose and similar areas to FireSmart their homes using proven principles for lowering wildfire risks.

The department will be providing information about the FireSmart Program through mailouts and resources are available at ENR offices.

Letcher said the primary message for Deh Cho residents this time of year is to be careful.

"Don't be complacent because a fire can easily escape," he said.

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