By Anna Smith
It’s been a relatively quiet year to date for the emergency services team in Cypress County, but as it gets closer to winter, they remain ever vigilant for new threats.
There weren’t any major or severe fires this season, said Emergency Services Coordinator Jason Linton. Despite the conditions being severe enough for the county to have a fire ban in place over a month ahead of when restrictions often come into play, there were, thankfully, no major incidents.
“It’s almost a good news, bad news story,” said Linton. “It was so dry and so hot, there wasn’t a lot of fuel or grass to grow. So since there wasn’t a big fuel load, which resulted in all the fires we did have being pretty small. And we were able to contain them pretty quickly.”
While they would have obviously preferred more ideal conditions for the agricultural producers who live there, the low fuel load was something of a silver lining for Cypress firefighters.
The lack of fires did not prevent the team from being hard at work, however.
“This year we kind of really reviewed what our calls for service was over the last year to really understand what our responses were. And that’s our training program that matches what the calls for service were. So one of the things we’re really focused on was our medical training,” said Linton.
As Emergency Medical Services largely come out of Medicine Hat in this area, it’s often the case that the rural firefighting stations arrive on scene faster than EMS coming from the city. As a result, said Linton, a priority this year has been giving their firefighters training to support EMS, and to provide some basic initial care while waiting for EMS to arrive.
“Working with the data of what calls we receive has been a big win for us, not just for medical response, but also for wildland firefighting,” said Linton. “We’ve also been working on our vehicle driving and operating our vehicles to make sure that our firefighters are properly trained to respond to wildfires, which is our number one call for service, and then making sure that we can get to the scene safely.”
Currently, Cypress firefighting is creating a focus on internal fire hazards, as winter draws close and most of the threats for potential fires move into homes; specifically, the threat moves into the kitchen.
“This year’s theme is cooking safety. So cooking brings families and friends together and provides an outlet for creativity and can be relaxing, but there’s lots of hazards with that. So with cooking conscious, be alert,” said Linton. “If you’re sleepy or have consumed alcohol, do not use a stove or stovetops.”
Linton advises to stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling foods and if you leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
“The last big one is to keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packs and towels or curtains away from the stovetop,” said Linton.