Gopher-killing device cause of massive Alberta grass fire

Gopher-killing device cause of massive Alberta grass fire

24 March 2008

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Alberta, Canada — Igniting a propane device designed to kill gophers sparked a massive grass fire that forced the evacuation of residents in Springbank and destroyed barns and vehicles Saturday.

The man responsible for the blaze, who stepped forward and admitted to using on open flame during a fire ban, is facing charges and could be slapped with a hefty fine, M.D. of Rocky View’s acting deputy fire chief Jim Pendergast said yesterday.

“It was done out of negligence, it wasn’t done maliciously, but there’s still a lot of destruction there,” he said. “That’s the frustrating part – every single fire we’ve had has been preventable.”

Several residents of the rural community of Springbank were evacuated Saturday when the massive blaze swept across their properties in the afternoon.

One person suffered smoke inhalation, but no one was seriously injured.

The man responsible for the grass fire, who didn’t want to be named, said he had been using the Rodenator Pro, a professional rodent killer, and the spark on the device ignited the fire.

“I’m very sorry – it was just a spark and it went,” he said.

The Rodenator Pro pumps a mixture of propane and oxygen into the rodent’s burrow, and a built-in, self-contained ignition system sparks the mixture. Fire crews from Calgary, the M.D. of Rocky View, Cochrane and Redwood Meadows, as well as a helicopter from forestry officials, battled the fire that broke out between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. west of the city.

The fire spread more than a kilometre through Springbank Heights and a neighbouring community and threatened a number of homes, although none were damaged.

But a number of sheds, barns, vehicles and trailers that were in the path of the fire were lost.

Calgarian Jerry Proppe’s truck, parked at his parents’ Springbank Heights acreage, was destroyed by the flames.

“It seems awfully stupid,” he said about the cause of the fire.

“I’m extremely disappointed that someone’s negligence leads to my loss.”

The system creates an underground shockwave that kills the rodents and collapses the tunnel system.

The M.D. of Rocky View is expected to lay charges and possible fines this week, said Pendergast.

The resident could also be charged with the cost of the firefighting resources, which is estimated to be in excess of $30,000, he said.

A damage estimate for property destroyed in the blaze has yet to be tallied.

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