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Volume 24, Number 28, Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wildfire smoke hurt air


City Council did its best last week to soften the blow of moving to a full time fire service.

But even reducing the size of the crew on each fire truck won't change the fact the fire service budget has already doubled, and will continue to grow in coming years.

And while in hindsight we may say this should have happened years ago, there is no doubt it had to happen. And, as I said before, there is plenty of blame to go around.

Looking back over the past few years, we can see how vinyl siding and having houses too close together is as much to blame as anything. This was recognized a decade ago, prompting new building code standards that were supposed to help, but clearly haven't fully prevented serious fires.

Fort Saskatchewan experienced several multi-building blazes in recent years:

Fire damaged six duplex units under construction in Westpark on Feb. 13, 2015. Three units were ablaze before firefighters arrived.

Fire destroyed two houses under construction in Southfort Meadows on August 12, 2015. Both were fully ablaze when firefighters arrived.

Fire destroyed three occupied homes in Westpark on April 20, 2016. A cigarette butt started the fire on the deck on one home, which spread to the exterior of both neighbouring homes before the alarm was even sounded.

Each of these fires had different causes. But all three spread rapidly. In two cases this was because no one lived in the homes, but the third case was more troubling because the homes were occupied. The fact the fire started on the outside of the home left the occupants ignorant.

We were very lucky no one was killed.

The potential for more such fires means our fire service must be faster and more capable than ever. This means we will have to spend a lot more on this service.

There is no choice. With half of all the homes in Fort Saskatchewan having been built in the past decade, our town is more susceptible to fire than ever before.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Finally warm enough for poolNEWS/Entries/2019/7/19_Finally_warm_enough_for_pool.html

House fire threat greater than ever

Wildfire smoke created some very poor air quality in our region this spring, according to the quarterly report from the Fort Air Partnership.

Local air monitoring stations recorded as many as 25 hours of High Risk to health during the May 30 to June 8 period, according to the report released this week.

That high number was at the Redwater station, which also recorded six hours of Very High Risk to health.

The Fort Saskatchewan station recorded 12 hours of High Risk and four hours of Very High Risk.

Smoke from northern Alberta wildfires rolled into the area on May 30, creating an eerie orange sky and prompting an Environment Canada advisory, warning residents to stay indoors.

Fort Saskatchewan's monitoring station recorded an Air Quality Health Index that day over 50. Any reading over 10 is deemed Very High Risk.

Such results are rare for this area, the Fort Air Partnership notes. The region had only one hour of High Risk in the same period last spring.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019