Beiseker Fire Chief, Nikki King is observing that the department has already responded to several grass fires earlier this month, which is something she says is rather unusual, especially so early in May.
"It's very uncommon for this time of year, especially with how much snow we had this winter; you would think that just on that very basis, we would still be very wet," Chief King observed. "But it's remarkably dry and the slightest little thing will set it off right now and then it just spreads."
Chief King, like many other department fire chiefs, is closely watching the short and long-term weather forecasts, though she said if this month is a benchmark for what is to come, then spring and summer will be very busy for the department. The anticipation of a busier-than-usual time for calls for service has prompted the village to invest in a new fire tender water truck for the department.
"'We're hoping to have that by the beginning of June, at which [time] 80 percent of our calls are grass fires."
And while Beiseker's volunteer fire department has nearly 60 members in its ranks, most of the members live outside of the village. Chief King said that resources may very well be stretched thin in the coming months.
"We do have members that are deployed to the wildfires. We had one member that was deployed to the wildfires and he let me know that he would be unable to do his shifts for that month," she said.
That particular member was expected to be deployed for 21 days but suffered an injury during his deployment when a tree fell on them.
"He broke his femur on his very first shift and now he's out for six to eight weeks. So, we're short members that are responding to the wildfires. We're always looking for recruits; we're always hiring."
Another factor that is also playing to the fire department's ongoing resource issue is that many firefighters who become volunteers then go on to become full-time career members in larger departments, creating vacancies.
"We are essentially a stepping stone for people. But, we have to be cognizant of the fact that we're doing something right because we've had many successful applicants go through our program and get hired by the City of Calgary."
Regardless, Beiseker's Fire Department is ready to answer the calls for service, provided they come in through the proper channels. Chief King reminded residents that if they are calling for the fire department to respond, they must call 9-1-1 and not the fire hall's phone number.
"We can't self-dispatch," she reminded residents. "It's important that a call is generated through Calgary 9-1-1 Dispatch, and then they'll send us out."
She also underlined that when it comes to fire advisories and fire bans, it is crucial to remember that third-party websites may not always have the most current information. She noted that firebans.ca does have a disclaimer on its website, which in part reads:
"...Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information presented on this site...Every individual is responsible for knowing and following the legislation and bylaws of the area they are in at a given time. If you have questions about a jurisdiction’s boundaries, please contact that municipality."
Hence she said that if residents are wondering about conflicting information presented on a website, they should always contact the Fire Department or follow their social media to be aware of the most current advisories that are in place. Beiseker is currently under a fire ban.
Chief King also said that while nearly 50 per cent of wildfires are indeed human-caused, she does believe oftentimes it is an issue of ignorance, rather than willful malevolence on the part of the public.
"The irony is that we had a torrential rain pour; I think we have over an inch of water that came down in the span of about an hour and you would have thought that that would have helped mitigate the fire ban, or at least some of the risks," she said. "Regardless, we're still on high alert and expecting to be very busy."
While Fire Chief King and her department are fully prepared for a busy grass fire season and all the risks that go with it, there is always time for levity in the fire department. She proudly announced that the Fire Department has unveiled a new mascot. It's not the typical rendition of a Dalmatian though. Considering, the town's mascot is a skunk - Squirt the Skunk, it seems only fitting that the fire department has a similar mascot.
The Beiseker Fire Department's rendition is a lot more fierce and definitely ready to see some action - which seems perfectly fitting for the department and for its members who are always ready to answer their community's call for help.
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