The Situation Room – As Fort Mac fire anniversary nears, exercise caution in 2017

Mac Olsen
The fire that devastated Fort McMurray last year is a reminder that we need to be cautious about this year’s fire season.

While last year was the wettest I have ever seen this region in the nearly 10 years I’ve lived here, that doesn’t mean we’re going to have that same weather this year.

The fire season started March 1 and landowners planning to do controlled burns who require permits to do so, have to contact Fire Chief Marcel Maure to obtain them.

As a reminder to drivers, if you see a fire, stop at the scene and verify it is an out-of-control fire, and not an controlled burn.

Often times, Smoky River Fire and Rescue gets a call for service, when it’s actually a permitted controlled burn taking place.

Still, the danger is real. In the summer of 2014, I remember going to get photos of a grass fire because it had been so hot and dry.

Firefighters were able to put that one out in short order. But it still highlights the fact that your property can be perfectly safe one moment and subject to a fire threat the next.

This year also marks the sixth anniversary of the Slave Lake wildfires. I was among the media who went into Slave Lake to see the aftermath.

It wasn’t a pretty sight. In the residential area where the RCMP detachment is located, where there were once homes, only the brick foundations of the basements remained. Many vehicles were burned skeletons, too.

In the downtown area, the wildfires destroyed a large part of a vehicle dealership, as well as a municipal government building. Yet other buildings and businesses were undamaged.

It was eery to see how the fire had devastated some areas and not others. Slave Lake looked like a post-apocalyptic world out of a science fiction movie.

The damage that occurred there, I wouldn’t wish on anyone and I hope I never see another devastation like it ever again.

Each year, I make a trip to the Slave Lake area. Every time I come in from the east, I see the burnt trees on either side of the highway and they look like used match sticks.

Slave Lake continues to recover from the 2011 devastation and Fort McMurray has a long way to go.

What those communities suffered and continue to endure, I never want to see in the Smoky River region.

We have first responders and fire attack crews waiting to answer the call. But let’s all do our part to ensure that they don’t have to.

Where and when a fire ban is put in place, please obey it. Don’t start campfires or controlled burns if the order comes.

To keep up to date about fires and fire bans, there is the AB Wildfire app for your Android or Apple smartphone.

On social media, Alberta Wildfire can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as YouTube.

Also, check the M.D. of Smoky River’s website and the fire department’s Facebook page for up-to-date information.

You can report fires to 310-FIRE (3473) and more information can also be found at, as well as

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