Fire chief pushes prevention

The smoke from a fire east of Hay River.  The fire was first reported on Friday.

The smoke from a fire east of Hay River. The fire was first reported on Friday.

While the fires earlier this month gave some residents a scare, Fire Chief Ross Potter also hopes that they prove an effective incentive for people to protect themselves and their homes from future blazes.

“It’s a matter of maintenance,” he told The Hub. “Any branches lower than six feet high have the potential to spread the fire, and brush on the ground will do the same.”

To that end, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is holding a FireSmarting contest, in which people who register their properties as values at risk and prove that they have successfully FireSmarted them could win hoses and sprinklers to make their homes even more safe. Entrants must take before and after shots of their property and submit them to be considered.

Such efforts are particularly needed in some areas of Hay River, according to Potter. While the town proper is largely safe, homes out in the Corridor are significantly less so. After taking an aerial view a few weeks ago, he estimated that more than half the properties there need work.

“These people have bought houses out of town and closer to the bush on purpose, but there’s responsibility that comes with that,” said Potter. “Even in Mile 5, I saw a lot of black spruce trees right up close to houses, a lot of firewood piled directly against houses, those are all potential hazards.”

Potter did say that there are some areas of the Corridor, like Paradise Valley, that seem to have a better handle on things.

“Once you do the major part of the work, it’s just light maintenance,” he said. “We were lucky this time. We have lots of time to get sprinklers into Delancey and Riverwoods, but if the fire had started closer, we wouldn’t have had that time.”

The contest runs until Sept. 1 with winners being drawn Sept. 4.

“The fire department will go out and advise people on how they should go about clearing and maintaining their properties if they like,” said Potter. “The best thing that can come from the recent fires is if people can learn from them and make their homes and properties safe.”