The dry conditions in the southeast have sparked yet another big blaze for the local emergency services to deal with, as they spent several hours on scene on Thursday before it was safe to clear out.
"At approximately 10:30 (AM) the Estevan Fire Department was alerted and toned out to the report of a rather large grass fire occurring west of the city on Highway 39. Upon arrival at the scene, a very large grass fire was found in close proximity to both the highway and the rail line. Crews came in and we were able to bring the fire under control," related Fire Chief Dale Feser.
"However, due to the extremely smoky conditions, we did have to call RCMP services in to assist with traffic control for the safety of the motorists. I tell you, we just can't thank them enough for ensuring that we have a good and safe work zone for us."
He added that dispatch also had to get through to CP Rail and advise them to halt all traffic inbound along the railroad until the blaze was safely under control. One incident did arise where a driver was travelling way too fast through the emergency zone, but they were quickly dealt with by RCMP, with Feser's thanks.
He said the cause of the fire was a result of the repairs that railway crews were conducting on the tracks, including a variety of hot work such as grinding and cutting with torches. The workers on site battled the inferno to the best of their ability, despite the strong wind's attempts to carry it away, until the Fire Department could arrive and tame it down.
"There was a pulse plant occupancy that was right next to the fire as well, so of course we wanted to make sure that those exposures were not being threatened by the fire. Thank goodness that the fire did not jump the tracks, and that particular plant did not suffer any damage," Feser noted.
If such a scenario had occurred, he explained that they would have then evacuated the plant, but there was no need this time. The staff from the place were also on hand to assist the fire crews in case the fire did spread in that direction.
A pattern of such blazes along railroad tracks in the area seems to be arising as the arid conditions provide a difficult task for the workers doing the repairs.
"They try to do a little bit of an evaluation or assessment. They do some pre wetting of the vegetation in the area where the work is being conducted," said Feser, adding that it's not even necessarily the rail work igniting all the recent fires. Welding, farming and machining and other types of hot work all contribute to the count.
"You want to make sure that you're going to work in an area where the vegetation is well kept and maintained. Make sure that you're not working in the longer vegetation if at all possible. Always make sure that you try to pre wet the vegetation around when you're doing any hot work, and always make sure that you have fire extinguishers handy while the process is going on. Say, if a welder is out there welding away, you should actually have an extra individual on site to provide a fire watch, if you will. That way, they can quickly extinguish any ground fires that may be caused as a result of the work being performed."
He also reminded to people to never be shy to report unattended fires to 911, and if it's a controlled burn, to report it in to the burn line.