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March 15th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 11
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FireSmart operations resume in the backcountry
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald Contributor photo
The four-person FireSmart team includes, from left to right, Trent Fraser, Craig Marshall, Lorne Gault, and Marty Schmidt.
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
Most of us only have to look out our window to see the beautiful forests surrounding Crowsnest Pass. But these forests can turn from our playground to a fire hazard in a matter of moments.

The four-person Crowsnest Pass Fire/Rescue team began controlled burns in the Pass on Feb. 6, and the FireSmart program will run until Oct. 31.

“FireSmart is a way to get the standing dead and fallen out of there to mitigate the risk and potential of forest fire,” says firefighter and team lead of the FireSmart team Lorne Gault. “Being surrounded by the forest area, it’s really important. There’s a lot of old forest out there that needs to be cleaned out.”

Last year was the first time that the Pass received FireSmart Canada and FRIAA grants for fire mitigation. The FRIAA grant totaled $400,000, while FireSmart Canada was $60,000, both of which were used to conduct work in the Southmore area. All grant funds are meant for fire mitigation and forest reduction and are put towards wage and equipment costs.
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“The forest is fairly young, but with the winds that we have here, it knocks down a lot of trees, so if we take out too much, we’ll get more wind load and it’ll start knocking down more trees,” says Gault. “We’re trying to get it to that right point, have the right recipe, and hopefully it’ll last five or six years before we have to go back to that area again.”

Currently, the team is working off of last year’s FRIAA grant on controlled burns in the Southmore area that they are hoping to complete by the end of May.

“Last year should have eaten up the $400,000, but with extenuating circumstances, we didn’t get all the work done so we asked for an extension,” says Deputy Chief Mark Calvert. “It’s a big project, labour-intensive and a lot of work.”

The Fire Department has submitted grant applications for FRIAA and FireSmart Canada funding, which they will put towards Valley Ridge behind Frank. In 2016, FireSmart was completed for Willow Drive, a 3.5-hectare project.
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Keeping our forests fire-safe is a highly strenuous process for the FireSmart team.

“You’re up there hiking, constantly moving around, packing wood all day long,” says Gault. “You’re carrying your saw that weighs 15 pounds and with all your gear, you’re carrying an extra 30 pounds on you and constantly moving cutting down trees.”

The team received different types of training in 2016 to prepare them for the work required, from attending seminars and training sessions to open houses and reading information sent out by FRIAA.
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March 15th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 11
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