It’s a lesson worth remembering: the pile of garbage you burned in winter that appears to be completely extinguished could reignite months or even years later. That’s what happened on a property near Kola on April 11.
WDFD Chief Brad Yochim says the department’s first grass fire of the season was caused by a garbage pile burned back in January. It reignited and spread across a pasture, destroying a couple of old wood granaries. Luckily nothing else was harmed.
The hot ember phenomenon is responsible for a lot of fires, says Yochim.
“Even if a garbage pile gets covered over with snow and it melts, the embers can remain hot deep inside the pile for a long time. Once the heat comes and the wind dries the pile out, all it takes is one spark to set off the grass around the pile and away it goes.”
Yochim says years ago a farmer actually lost his house to fire because a manure pile he burned in the winter rekindled in spring, spread to the grass and then took his home.
The Kola fire was a challenge because the ground was too wet for the firetrucks to get to it. It took seven members of Elkhorn Fire two hours to put it out using a pickup and ATV.
Two days later, on the 13th, another grass fire occurred just west of Virden. A landowner was doing a controlled burn when a gust of wind pushed it out of control. It spread quickly across a pasture and came within 15 metres of a building.
Both Virden and Elkhorn halls responded to that one with six trucks, the ATV and 20 firefighters.
Yochim wants to remind people that grass burns fast in spring because it’s tinder dry, but the ground is too wet and soggy for large equipment so firefighting crews are limited in how they tackle the flames.
“I would caution all land owners to be very careful when burning this time of year. The winds have been strong and the smallest fire can quickly get out of control.