An investigation by Regional Emergency Services (RES) has determined an abandoned illegal campfire is what caused the fire in Morgan Heights Park in Timberlea.
On Oct. 18, 2022, RES responded to reports of a brush fire behind McKinlay Crescent.
It was one of five human-caused fires within a 48-hour period in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, including two fires in Janvier.
There was no immediate risk to the public and no evacuation orders were put in place.
According to the RMWB, the fire advanced in several directions, fueled by high winds and extremely dry conditions.
RES Fire Chief Jody Butz called the illegal campfire a “careless decision” that caused undue harm.
“The steady smoke from this smoldering fire, and its continued impact on many could have been avoided. I am urging everyone to take responsibility for their actions in the backcountry, on the Birchwood Trails, and even in their own yards.”
According to fire Marshal Nick Brenner, RES responded to 19 illegal campfires in 2022 alone.
“These illegal campfires are being started in popular places in town, outside of approved fire receptacles, such as Birchwood Trails, Tower Road, Snye Park, Clearwater Drive, North Parsons, among many other locations. These fires are being started in areas that are not approved for burning.”
Location with approved fire receptacles for public use include Snye Park, Gregoire Lake, and Borealis Park.
— rmwoodbuffalo (@RMWoodBuffalo) October 26, 2022
The investigation into the cause of the fire began on Oct. 19, and established the perimeter of the fire at 10 hectares.
Investigators located the illegal site about 20 metres west of the main trail behind McKinlay Crescent, and determined it was the area of origin.
Notable features of the illegal fire pit was an washing machine tub, a camping tent, along with debris and garbage.
Chief Butz said everyone has a role to play in preventing wildfires.
“You may think your fire is ‘extinguished enough’ and that winter and precipitation on the way will take care of it, but that simply is not the case. The impacts of leaving an illegal campfire unattended are significant.”
Additional photos of the illegal campfire are available on the Municipality’s website, which also provide updates on the Morgan Heights fire.
The RMWB said fire permits are required for all open-air burns in the urban service area.