|Grass fire near Taber sparked by swather|
|Local Content - Local News|
|Written by Garrett Simmons|
|Tuesday, 18 September 2012 18:10|
Make no mistake — it’s fire season.
Last week’s wildfires that came dangerously close to Lethbridge and surrounding areas were a stark reminder of how a seemingly-innocent event, like a downed power line, can result in near catastrophe.
That point was driven home again yesterday, as firefighters from Taber and surrounding areas dealt with a grassfire that took hours, and support from the air, to extinguish.
Late Monday afternoon, huge clouds of smoke billowed from the landscape north of Taber, smoke which was visible from just outside Coaldale. A large tract of land north of Taber, a few kilometres from the Taber Motorsports Park, on the other side of the river, caught fire while a southern Alberta farmer was working in his field.
“A swather hit a rock,” said Taber Emergency Services chief Mike Bos. “He was out baling grass.”
He added the weather at the time provided a perfect scenario for a full-out grass fire to develop.
“The conditions were right — it was hot and the humidity was low,” said the chief, who mentioned those factors played a huge role in the escalation of the fire event. “It was a fairly rapid spread. It spread to the west and south and stopped at the river.”
Bos added his department received the call at 4:28 p.m., and quickly realized help would be required. Fire departments from Enchant, Hays, Grassy Lake and Taber all contributed, while the M.D. of Taber co-ordinated help from the sky, as Kinniburgh Spray Service was enlisted to drop water on some hard-to-reach areas.
“They filled up three times,” said Bos of the planes, who he said came in extremely handy hitting the coulee areas, which provided challenging terrain for land-based firefighting crews.
In all, over 40 firefighters worked to battle the blaze, along with M.D. of Taber employees and volunteers from nearby Hutterite colonies.
Bos added most of the area burnt was barren grass land, but a few high-powered transmission lines were in the line of fire. However, only minimal damage was reported on a few poles.
Luckily, the fire chief added the wind was not a major issue, who went on to say despite the fact the M.D. of Taber and its neighbours all have fire bans in place, caution is the catchphrase for the late-summer season.
“The grass-fire threat is high at this time with harvest still going and the heat, and the low humidity levels,” said Bos.
In fact, the day-time high today is predicted at 28 degrees, while highs are expected to hover around 25-26, with no rain in the forecast, until Sunday.
With that, Bos added agricultural producers should take a few precautions, such as having a fire extinguisher handy and if possible, a water truck nearby and at the ready.
“To get a fire when it’s small is a lot easier than when it’s out of control.”
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