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Safety first around the May long backyard summer fire

With the unofficial start to summer this weekend, fire crews are urging caution as people break out the barbecue pit and roast marshmallows in a backyard fire pit. Also, there is the need to plan an escape route and muster point in the event of a fire, even at your home.

Kristopher Hill, assistant fire chief with the Lloydminster Fire Department notes that while there are no fire restrictions within the city, and even with the rain we have had, conditions remain dry.

“It can change day by day – hour by hour. Just because it rained a little bit, the moisture can run off the surface and into the storm drains. And then you get a little bit of wind. It does not take long for the relative humidity to drop,” says Hill.

Cigarette butts

The wind is also fuel for a grass fire that may have started from a flicked cigarette butt.

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“We recommend that people dispose of their smoking materials appropriately. Keep a water bottle in your car or a cigarette butt holder. Don’t flick them out the window.”

Hill says they get a few backyard fires every year caused by poorly disposed cigarette butts. He says to have an ashtray. Don’t put the ash into a garbage can, even if it looks cold as it can smoulder for hours and days causing a fire.

“Also, not putting your smoking materials in garden pots where there is fertilizer. We have found they cause a few fires as well.”

He says the delayed reaction will smoulder in the fertilizer for up to eight hours.

Also, Hill notes some places are looking at banning jet lighters and torches as the flame stays lit when you press the button.

When it comes to that backyard barbecue, Hill says don’t get complacent. Clean out the barbecues and keep them six to ten feet away from your home when using the barbecue. Also, with backyard fires, the fire pit must not be bigger than 36 inches in diameter with an ember screen on the top.

The biggest concern for fire crews is people burning prohibited materials including old furniture, mattresses, and leaves.

“Construction materials, furniture, cardboard with garbage. You’re not supposed to burn any of that stuff. Class A wood is the only material you are permitted to burn,” says Hill.

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He adds to keep watch on the fire at all times and have water nearby just in case. When burning prohibited materials, the embers can travel outside your yard, then land in nearby grass in the neighbour’s yard, and can cause a fire, notes the fire officer.

Anyone wanting to burn materials in a barrel must apply for a fire permit from the fire department.

Given the ongoing wildfire situation in Alberta, the Lloydminster Fire Department has not received any request to pitch in. Like in the past, they are ready to go if called upon, but their focus remains the City of Lloydminster.

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