Regional firefighters responded to the scene of a brush fire at a home on Station Road Tuesday afternoon

Regional firefighters responded to the scene of a brush fire at a home on Station Road Tuesday afternoon

Spring sparks new weather warning for Greater Trail

Firefighters respond to grass fire on Station Road

The first real taste of spring could come as early as next week when the mercury rises as high as 20 C, according to local forecaster Ron Lakeman.

But with the change in seasons comes a change in warnings from the Southeast Fire Centre in Castlegar concerning outdoor burning activities.

Warm temperatures and rapid snow melt uncovers dried grass from last year, which is highly flammable material that can easily spark a wildfire.

“What happens in early spring is that it takes a couple of weeks to go from brown grass to green,” Lakeman said. “During this transition the material is very flammable and will sustain a fire.”

Local firefighters saw that first hand on Tuesday on Station Road.

The property owner was clearing brush and burning a very small fire, when unexpected wind spread flames to a low lying grass area near the mountainside.

A “freak” gust of wind blew up in the valley, according to Terry Martin, Kootenay Boundary fire chief.

“The homeowner was doing nothing wrong,” he added.

“It’s just that time of year, no different than any other year, but everything is dry and the surface fuel burns fast.”

Weather conditions can change quickly and wind can carry embers to combustible materials, so the fire chief reminds residents to ensure adequate water and tools are on hand to control fires and prevent flames from escaping.

To date, regional fire rescue has been called out twice by homeowners to extinguish burning grass.

The first incident was in Genelle two weeks ago.

Residential properties in Area A and Area B are governed by the centre’s open burning policies, which allow small fires of twigs, grass, leaves and other combustible materials.

The City of Trail and Village of Fruitvale have a ban on all burning; while the Village of Warfield does not require permits for open burning from Nov. 1 to April 30.

Homeowners may be eager to get a jump on spring cleanup thanks to a warm welcome into spring.

April escorted the region’s winter out like a lamb, with the first few days of the month ushering in warmer than usual temperatures accompanied by sunny skies.

Although some cloud cover and a chance of showers is expected by tonight (Thursday), the weekend could shape up with very warm temperatures expected for Sunday.

“There is optimism with a big ridge of high pressure on the way,” said Lakeman. “With sunny, mild weather and temperatures into the upper teens and higher.”

The mild weather follows a winter that was nothing out of the norm.

Arctic outbreaks froze Greater Trail with record cold temperatures during the first few months of the year, but the rest of the season was unremarkable.

“Compared to what you saw on the news coming from anywhere east of the Rockies where the weather was cold and eventful,” said Lakeman. “West of the Rockies we were spoiled to a certain degree this winter.”

Although March roared in with one last snowstorm over the first three days and the coldest day, -10 C recorded on March 2, the rest of the month brought mostly rain and average daily temperatures.

The change of weather pattern during the second week of the month produced a significant amount of rain and led to total precipitation 39 per cent greater than normal, noted Lakeman.

March was the first “wetter than normal” month since September, and averaged to be 1 C cooler than normal, he added.

High pressure produced sunny and slightly milder days during the last week of March with the warmest day recorded on March 26, when the monthly temperature peaked at 14 C.