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EDITORIAL: Fire safety starts with you

The weather is warming up in Cochrane and with it comes dry grass ready to ignite.

The weather is warming up in Cochrane and with it comes dry grass ready to ignite.

The beautiful spring days are an invitation to get outside and explore the beautiful landscapes in and around Cochrane— But, explorers have a responsibility to practice caution and take steps to avoid sparking a wildfire.

The region has already seen its first wildfire of the season with a blaze off Highway 1A Thursday (April 1).

The inferno created a wall of a thick black smoke that forced the closure of the highway and the evacuation of residents and workers in the area.

The blaze was contained thanks to the hard work of multiple fire departments including Cochrane, Rocky View Country and Stoney Nakoda First Nation, and no homes were destroyed.

The wildfire is still under investigation and firefighters continue to survey the scene to ensure another blaze does not reignite.

The hard work and bravery of our region's firefighters are inspiring and we can all do our part to help minimize the number of fires they fight this year.

Spring is a dangerous time in the region because the dry conditions create a tinderbox in the grasslands— A dangerous situation for a town like Cochrane which is surrounded by grasslands.

Every year we see frightening grass fires erupt in the Cochrane area, such as the Devil’s Head wildfire— The largest wildfire in Alberta in 2020.

The Devil’s Head blaze forced the evacuation of many residents and raged out of control for nine days in September. Strong winds later reignited the flames causing it to once again become out of control in October.

The wildfire was caused by an abandoned campfire and eventually destroyed more than 2,400 hectares of forest.

Devil’s Head was one of 705 wildfires reported in Alberta, that combined damaged more than 3,200 hectares of land in 2020. 

The majority of these fires had one thing in common— They were caused by humans.

A fire ban has been put in place in Cochrane and Rocky View County and we all must do our part to help minimize the potential of fires by following the rules.

Cochrane Fire Services inspector Jeff Avery said the two most common causes of grass are unattended and poorly extinguished fires and cigarette butts being thrown outside. Burning improper materials can also result in wildfires.

The Town of Cochrane website offers more information on fire safety through their Fire Smart Program.

A fire ban will likely be in place for the foreseeable future until the region receives a healthy dose of rain.

“Grassfire season is really the perfect storm for Cochrane because we can get it coming from any direction. We just have to be super careful," Avery said. “We need days of rain to green everything up and then we can lessen the fire ban. There’s not a lick of green grass anywhere— We’re in the perfect storm right now so we have to be extremely diligent in what we do.”

If you spot a fire call 911 and Fire Services will arrive on the scene to help.