Local Journalism Initiative
It’s Fire Prevention Week in Canada and this year’s theme for the Hinton Fire Department is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.”
Fire Prevention Week from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10 brings awareness to fire hazards while identifying serious cooking risk in the kitchen.
“A number of fires start as a result of overheated cooking oil in deep fryers or pans heated directly on kitchen stoves,” stated Todd Martens, Hinton’s fire chief and protective services manager.
Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, he added, and the Hinton Fire Department is focusing on preventing kitchen fires.
Five quick tips to prevent cooking fires include staying alert and never leaving cooking unattended, checking on food regularly and possibly with a timer, heating cooking oil slowly and keeping the temperature below 200 degrees Celsius, avoiding cooking when sleepy or drowsy from medication, alcohol, or cannabis, and keeping cooking areas clear of children, pets, and materials that can catch on fire, such as potholders, towels, drapes, and food packaging.
Martens stated that in case of a grease fire, don’t use water to put it out and keep the pot on the stove. Slide a fitted lid over it to smother the flames. When safe, turn off the heat and the exhaust fan to stop flames and gases from spreading.
For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from escaping.
For a microwave fire, keep the door closed and unplug the appliance if it is safe to do so.
It’s important to have tested and maintained smoke alarms on every level of the house, including the basement and sleeping areas.
More than one-third of all fire fatalities are associated with having no smoke alarm, Martens added.
“If your smoke alarm sounds and you see or smell smoke or fire, you and your family need to get out of the home as quickly as possible and call 9-1-1,” he said.
Smoke alarms should be tested once a month with the test button and batteries should be replaced once per year at least. A smoke alarm should be replaced every 10 years to make sure it stays in proper working condition, and the expiry date should be checked.
Firesmart work in Hinton is always ongoing if funding is available.
The Hinton Fire Department did apply for grant money for maintenance on a few of the older areas recently but was denied.
“We will be looking at having the five year mitigation strategy redone in 2021 hopefully through grant funding which will help us identify high hazard areas in the community on projects moving forward,” said Martens.
Over the last seven years, the department has done about $2.1M in firesmart grant funding work in the community.
The Hinton Fire Department ran recruit drives through 2019 and 2020 and will be starting a new class in early 2021.
“We try to bring on at least one class of eight to ten people a year but with individuals work, family time, and the commitment it takes to get certified or deemed competent requires a lot of hours of training as a volunteer,” Martens said.
Martens added that when he started in the fire service 23 years ago there was a long waiting list to get on the department and only a few courses were mandatory.
With changes to occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation, training requirements, and time commitments, it is getting harder and harder to find people who want to volunteer their time, Martens said.
Once a new recruit starts it takes about a year and half until they complete their 1001 Level 2 firefighter courses, which is recognized across Canada.
A recruit starts with just the basics over the first three months, in order to get them responding to calls.
Book work, classroom, and hands on training follows this for the next year and three months.
“Most departments are all having the same issues with recruitment across Alberta. It is one of the town departments that is almost completely run with volunteers,” Martens said.
Hinton currently has 26 volunteer firefighters and without their dedicated commitment the department could not do what they do, Martens added.
The work experience program (WEP) is still up and running, which adds a big value to the town of Hinton and residents, he said.
Two fully trained firefighters have worked out of the firehall for the past year. They helped with keeping equipment up to date with legislation and in working condition, and with manpower shortages during the day and overall time savings for calls.
“We currently just had two firefighters from Ontario in the program and we have application open for the next hires,” Martens added.
The Junior Firefighter Program is put on hold in 2020 due to challenges with the pandemic but the department hopes to start it up again in 2021.
Applications are open for volunteers for the upcoming 2021 recruitment class. Go to hinton.ca/129/Fire-Department for more information.
The wildfire danger in the Edson Forest Area, where Hinton is located remains very high and as of Oct. 5, there were two active wildfires in the area.
One of those wildfires is now extinguished and was located 1.5 km northwest of Grande Cache along the Smoky River. It burned 0.01 hectares.
The second fire is now under control and located 22 km northwest of Hinton along a gravel road and is estimated to be 2.89 hectares in size. There is one water truck, five firefighters and one helicopter on site working to extinguish the fire.
Both wildfires are under investigation and were reported by the public using 310-FIRE.
Humans generally account for the cause of 60 per cent of wildfires in Alberta. Due to a lack of rain and above seasonal temperatures, a fire advisory in the area was put in place. Safe campfires are still allowed and existing fire permits remain valid.
Since March 1, 2020, there have been 56 wildfires in the Edson Forest Area burning approximately six hectares. There are currently 17 wildfires provincially in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta, with one of these wildfires out of control. Three are being held, eight are under control and five have been turned over to the responsible parties.
Since March 1 in Alberta’s Forest Protection Area, there have been 675 wildfires burning a total of 1,423.92 hectares. According to Alberta Wildfires, 989 wildfires and 883,411 hectares burned in 2019. In 2018, 1,288 wildfires and 59,809 hectares burned.
A fire restriction, fire ban, and ATV ban early in the season this year shut down any fire activity which is usually the cause of multiple fires.
For more information on the current wildfire situation across the province of Alberta, visit wildfirestatus.alberta.ca
Alberta’s wildfire season begins March 1 until Oct. 31. At this time of year, grass and fine fuels become very dry, stated the Alberta Wildfires fire advisory. The advisory cautions individuals when camping, hunting, or working in the outdoors to ensure they fully extinguish campfires and never leave it unattended.
Even on top of snow, it is important to fully extinguish a fire as snow can quickly melt by afternoon. The fire can smoulder in the debris below and reemerge as a wildfire.
Check for fire bans at albertafirebans.ca and report a wildfire at 310-FIRE(3473) toll-free from anywhere in Alberta.