The tinder-dry conditions and above-average temperatures hitting southern Alberta this spring have given rise to several potentially destructive grass fires in Calgary — and according to the Calgary Fire Department, most share a common cause: smokers.
"Our biggest concern regarding outdoor fires right now that we attend on a regular basis is the improper disposal of smoking materials," said CFD public information officer Carol Henke Friday.
"Unfortunately, people are still putting their cigarette butts in planter pots, in flower beds, in vegetation, in plastic containers and that will burn," she said. "And we have seen some devastating fires because of that."
Henke said the CFD attends to several grass fires daily that are suspected to be caused by cigarette butts thrown from moving vehicles or near pathways, including one Friday that broke out beside Stoney Trail in the Northwest. "It actually impacted traffic and caused a lot of smoke and was travelling fairly quickly due to the wind at the time," she said.
But it's not just smokers that need to use caution to avoid causing a catastrophic fire. Environment Canada is predicting a hot, dry summer, and the risk for fire could be higher than normal.
Unseasonably hot temperatures combined with strong wind gusts mean that any outdoor flame has the potential to quickly get out of control, Henke said. Another grass fire the CFD attended near Heritage Park last week appeared to be started by someone who lit poplar fluff on fire.
"Thankfully, it didn't cause too much damage, but any time you have a grass fire that's close to buildings it can grow and damage those buildings very quickly and put people's lives at risk," she said.
While the hot, dry weather has prompted other parts of the province to enact fire restrictions, Henke said so far there are none in place in Calgary. But she said everyone needs to be vigilant any time they're using flames outdoors — especially with barbecues and backyard fires. "Never leave your fire unattended, always extinguish it, be respectful of your neighbours and have a spark guard," Henke said.
More fire safety tips, as well as any restrictions and bans are posted on the CFD's website.
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