Grass fires out of control

Grass fires out of control

28 March 2007

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Merigomish, Canada — Firefighters are warning Pictou Countyresidents not to burn grass after two grass fires got out of control Wednesday.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Merigomish firefighers were called to assist theBarney’s River Fire Department after a man decided to burn over his blueberryfields.

Robert Lange of the Merigomish Fire Department and Gary Cameronof the Thorburn Fire Department put out a grass fire recently in Merigomish.

The fire quickly got out of control, said Merigomish fire chief Paul Schnurr.

“It melted the vinyl siding on the side of his house,” Schnurr said.”If it had taken the first fire truck another two minutes to get there, heprobably would’ve lost the house, too.”

That night, however, it was Merigomish firefighters who were calling forassistance after another grass fire incident.

Shortly after 6 p.m., firefighters got the call that a grass fire lit by aproperty owner had spread to two nearby barns that stood side by side. Bothbarns were completely destroyed by the blaze and an excavator had to be calledin to tear down the structures.

“With the hay and things inside, you’ve got to get it down quickly,”Schnurr said. “We’ll probably have to go back to take care of somesmouldering.”

No animals were inside the structures at the time. Although there was some worrythe fire would spread to a nearby house, the wind was blowing in the otherdirection, which kept it contained to the barns.

These two incidents aren’t the only grass fires Merigomish firefighters haveresponded to this year – the first was in February – and Schnurr doubts itwill be the last.

The grass in the county is primed for ignition, he said.

“Things are really dry, even the grass,” he said. “There wasn’tenough snow this year to mat it down. In these conditions, it could burnquicker, hotter and travel faster. Conditions like this are worse than forforest fires in the summer. It could very well be a busy season.”

The provincial natural resources department has already responded to thesituation by bringing fire permit requirements into effect two weeks earlierthan usual. Starting Sunday, anyone in mainland Nova Scotia who wishes to burnbrush within 305 metres (1,000 feet) of the woods will require a provincialburning permit to do so. Municipal permits may also be required in some places.

But Schnurr is strongly suggesting that property owners skip burning grass thisyear.

“It’s not a necessary thing to do,” he said. “People want to getrid of weeds, but in these conditions, they’re putting their properties at morerisk.”

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