Submitted by Nicole Johnson-Minde
Maskwacis Ermineskin First Nation editor
Ermineskin Fire and Disaster Services reported that a huge increase in fires were a concern in the last three weeks this April. In result of little snow this past winter; it is an early start to the “grass fire season” and dry record breaking weather conditions are a factor for the high demand of their firefighting expertise. Startling news about a fire that broke out near Kisipatnahk School had Ermineskin fire crew extinguishing shifty flames on April 18. Prior to the fire Monday, the crew of 16 firefighters had managed to put out a garbage blaze that went out of control in Pigeon Lake.
“We got the call at 11:26 a.m. regarding the Forty Acres in Louis Bull,” Richard Coyote, Deputy of Disaster Services told. “It seems to have been intentionally set but no one saw the individual. It was discovered to have been set in the middle of a field. There were six houses in that section. It jumped the road and that’s when it entered into Louis Bull, almost reaching the school, causing an evacuation,” he explained.
Although the Ermineskin fire crew have the capability to put out fires like this one, the windy conditions made it impossible to catch a shifty fire. Supports from Ponoka and Wetaskiwin were called to assist with the fire in Louis Bull. All pumper trucks had to be utilized.
“It gets pretty tiring,” Richard expressed, sharing that within two days the crew had been out fighting for approximately 12 hours. “Staying hydrated and working as a team works for us. We had the trucks running the water lines, putting out the fires, and others that put out hot spots.”
Grass fires are a scare when they come close to flaring up a home. Ermineskin Fire and Disaster Services have the largest fire crew in Maskwacis who are on-call at their fire hall.
“We always have someone here 24 hours to answer the calls during grass fire season.” Richard went on. “In 2013 in the same location, we put out a fire like this where we had to evacuate.” He remembered sharing experiences about past fires in Maskwacis like the Four Nation fires in 2009, and a big Pigeon Lake fire in 2011. Currently the hardworking crew has 16 permanent staff and volunteers on call.
Summer months haven’t arrived yet and a Four Nation Fire Ban was already issued following the recent grass fires.
“Usually in the spring we average about 200 calls but just within these three weeks, there were already 130.” Richard exclaimed. “But, it is our job, and saving homes is most important. I highly commend the staff here. They do their jobs professionally and the best they can,” he acknowledged.
Overall we are lucky to have the services provided by the fire crew, they definitely should be proud. They have proven their purpose by working long hours to protect our homes, schools and the land around Maskwacis. With that, it is asked by the Fire and Disaster Services Department that drivers and passengers refrain from throwing out lit cigarettes in ditches along the highways. Also to be considerate of our field and land. Please do not deliberately light a fire. It is not fun to see, nor is it healthy to breath musky air around the Nations.