On March 22, the RM of Stuartburn council met with representatives from the province and the office of the fire commissioner to discuss a matter of growing urgency. The meeting was held to discuss strategic planning for potential wildfires in 2012. Ironically, at the same time of the meeting the municipality was battling a wild fire that threatened several homes.
At the meeting, the delegates discussed current soil moisture content in most areas of concern is abnormally low for this time of year, creating a higher potential for serious wildfires in the coming season.
John Rodgers from Manitoba Conservation presented a strategy to separate the areas of concern into two divisions; one which will be the sole responsibility of Manitoba Conservation, the other which will be the responsibility of the R.M. with the assistance of Manitoba Conservation when needed.
Roles and responsibilities of those involved in a wildfire event similar to that of October 2011 were also discussed and clarified. However, the real issue is underground peat moss fires that are still occurring as a result of last fall`s wildfire emergency.
According to the RM of Stuartburn council peat moss is continuing to burn underground and has the potential to ignite fires above ground.
“Fires ignited peat moss that exists underground in a large portion of the municipality which has been actively smoldering since the disaster and has already created fires above ground which threatened the safety of people and caused the destruction of private and personal property,“ confirmed council.
While the majority of these underground fires are in the northeaster corner of the municipality exact locations of possible flare-ups are hard to predict. These unpredictable flare-ups could threaten property and public safety, council noted.
It was also noted that preventing these fires would push the RM of Stuartburn`s fire department to the limits in both equipment and man-power.
Jeff Erwin from the Office of the Fire Commission says they plan on having the peat moss extinguished in a 21-day period, and that two crews of workers will be stationed from Vita. The R.M. of Stuartburn Fire Department has also begun checking the severity of known hot spots and reporting them to the OFC, and will continue to regularly monitor them.
A thermal imaging scan will be conducted 22 to determine the current status of the smoldering peat moss and accurately determine exactly what is needed and prioritize areas that are identified.