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Canmore fire chief reminds residents of campfire rules heading into long weekend

Fires in designated fire pits within the municipal boundaries of the Town of Canmore are permitted at this time. Campfires on public land, or in the provincial parks, are not.
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Canmore Fire-Rescue wants to remind people to be fire smart this long weekend. RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – Canmore Fire-Rescue wants you to know your limits. 

Municipal boundary limits that is.

After responding to several calls over the past couple of weeks for fire pits – legal and illegal – Fire Chief Walter Gahler wants to remind residents that outdoor fires in fire pits, or at designated campgrounds within the municipal boundary, are currently permitted. Fires on provincial land are not.

“We have attended some calls in the last couple of weeks, a couple of illegal fire pits and fires in campground locations that were impromptu or temporary in municipal, not privately-owned land,” Gahler explained.

“We want to remind people, if you have space for a legal fire pit within the municipal boundary, we encourage you to enjoy that.”

While Alberta instituted a province-wide fire ban earlier this spring in provincial parks, which includes the surrounding area of Canmore's municipal boundary, backyard fires within fire pits and at designated spots in municipal campgrounds are currently allowed.

“We made the decision based on fire science and that we don’t want to take one of the little pleasures left of folks enjoying a fire in a fire pit if they so choose,” Gahler said.

“Part of that is we are surrounded by provincial land, so you will leave and see a sign that says ‘Fire Ban’ and that is accurate – that decision was primarily made to discourage [people gathering], not necessarily based on fire science.”

Taking an educational approach, Canmore Fire-Rescue staff is focusing on teaching people the difference between the legal and illegal man-made fires, but Gahler noted if it is an illegal fire, bylaw peace officers and RCMP can get involved.

“We absolutely understand how it may be confusing, but if you are in town boundaries and have a fire pit, or are at a municipal campground, it is allowed … if you notice your neighbours are having a fire in a fire pit and the smoke isn’t bothering you, rest assured it is allowed,” he said.

“Be kind to one another, especially now. Start with the benefit of doubt and go from there.”

That being said, Gahler said the crew is ready for the long weekend to respond to any and all calls. With the warmer weather recently, the chief noted he has been seeing an uptick in rescue calls. That includes one last week, where a hiker was injured and Canmore Fire-Rescue assisted with the evacuation, but reminded people to be safe and Chill the Shred.

“We want you to enjoy your long weekend safely and appropriately,” he said.

Canmore is currently under a fire advisory. Fire pit hours are between 10 a.m. and 1 a.m.

Go to canmore.ca for more information on how to enjoy a safe legal fire this Victoria Day long weekend. 

Rules for fires in fire pits in Canmore include:

• Backyard fire pits must be built into the ground, on brick or stone, or in a fire-proof container.

• Portable fire pits may be used on a deck, but they must sit on non-combustible material such as brick or stone, and not directly on your wooden deck. All fire pits need to be made from non-combustible material.

• Fire pits must be at least two metres away from any building or combustible material such as a fence.

• Fire pits must not be under any trees, branches, plants or other materials that can catch fire.

• All fires in a fire pit must be kept to a reasonable size; one metre high and wide.

• All fires must be fully supervised at all times by at least one person 14 years of age or older. 

• Only burn clean, dry firewood. Do not burn: wood that is painted, treated or contains glue or resin; wood from a different location, region or province; wet or green/fresh cut wood; yard waste (cut grass or leaves); garbage; rubber or plastic; or furniture.

• Always have a nearby way to put out the fire. Easy options are your watering hose, or a bucket of water. Placing a metal grill/screen on top of the fire pit reduces the flame's size and helps prevent sparks and embers from escaping and igniting nearby materials. Remember that high wind speeds may pose a fire hazard. 



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Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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