By: The Calgary Herald
The smoke was barely visible from the village of Radium, B.C., but a fire burned about 90 hectares in just a couple of hours on Friday.
It was a closely watched prescribed fire to restore some open forest and native grasslands for bighorn sheep near the Redstreak campground in Kootenay National Park.
“As soon as the snow comes off, we want to burn it,” said Jed Cochrane, fire and vegetation specialist with Parks Canada. “The grass is going to be dead once the snow comes off. It’ll take just a few days for that dead grass to dry. As soon as that dead grass is dry, it’s ready to burn.
“This year, it’s about three weeks early.”
The fire — which involved 25 crew from the national park, the province and the town — will also serve as a fireguard for the village about three kilometres away.
It came the same day Alberta wildfire crews burned some grassland around Morley to protect that area.
By Saturday, when temperatures soared and high winds hit, crews switched into high alert for all of southern Alberta.
Janelle Lane, a provincial wildfire information officer with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, said they had 10 firefighters on standby around Calgary all weekend.
“If something starts, it can spread really quickly,” she said.
There was a grassfire in southeast Calgary just after 5 p.m. Saturday after an electrical transmission line shorted out and sent sparks on to the dry grass below.
Lane said they weren’t called in to assist the Calgary Fire Department, but the fire hazard remained high to moderate throughout the weekend.
It means prescribed fires are now on hold.
“We are pulling back a little,” she said, explaining they won’t be doing any more control work until there’s some moisture in the ground.
In addition, Lane said no new fire permits will be issued to landowners wanting to burn on their property.
“It’s not safe for anybody to burn,” she said, noting the spring fire season is about two weeks earlier than normal across southern Alberta. “Hopefully some moisture will be coming.”
There’s a heavy snowfall warning in effect on Sunday, forecasting between 15 and 25 centimetres of snowfall for the areas in and around Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass and Waterton Lakes National Park. It was extended to Canmore and Kananaskis later Sunday afternoon and expected to last until mid-afternoon Monday.
Several of the communities in southern Alberta have been under a fire ban for the past week.
The ban, which would be lifted if significant precipitation falls, includes backyard fire pits, fireworks, slash piles, and burn barrels.
A fire advisory also remains in effect for the forests around Calgary.
Back in Radium, where the prescribed fire was kept under control by crews on the ground and a helicopter dropping buckets of water on hot spots, the area got between five and 10 millimetres of rain on Saturday.