Marten Beachers pitch in to reduce wildfire fuel

Leader staff

For the fourth straight year, members of the Marten Beach community got together for a FireSmart work bee. They spent three hours in the afternoon of Aug. 8 collecting and piling dead wood from areas in and around the community on public land. At the same time, many had piled brush from their own properties at the roadside and the regional FireSmart crew was there with its equipment to chip it up and remove it.

Afterward, everybody gathered for a barbecue at the lot of Marten Beach Cottagers’ Society President Randy Elm and his wife Tamara.

“At this year’s event, numbers were up, attendance-wise,” says Regional FireSmart Coordinator Brandy Walters, “and it’s so great to see lots of families and friends helping each other out. Many chose to participate in the curbside chipping as well.”

On that point, Dan Tarney, who was the main organizer on behalf of the community, says a lot who piled brush for chipping had never participated before. He sees it as a positive development.

Before the work started, FireSmart Educator, Michelle MacMillan engaged the crowd with a demonstration of how pruning and woody debris removal can reduce the risk of wildfire spreading into a community. Called ‘fire in a pan,’ it involved lighting a little ‘forest’ made of paper trees and seeing what happens. What happens is one burning tree ignites the one next to it where they are close together, but the fire peters out where they are more widely spaced.

Walters goes on to say that the Marten Beach community clean-up is successful because of the dedication of the cottagers in the community and the FireSmart stakeholders supporting their efforts.

With so much brush and dead trees having been cleared up over four years, Tarney says FireSmart efforts in the community will likely be changing.

“I’m guessing the focus will shift to individual homeowners performing more proactive fire reducing tasks on their property.”

A similar community clean-up event was held in Canyon Creek earlier this year, and organizers are hoping to make it into an annual thing. The same goes for Summerwood/Gilwood Golf Course, which saw its first FireSmart community clean-up last year. Another one is being planned for sometime this fall. Same goes for the Bayer Road community, Walters says.

Marten Beach property owners and members of various agencies involved in the FireSmart effort, following three hours of brush clearing on Aug. 18.

FireSmart community volunteers Sara Jones and Blake Pearson, with Leah Lovequist of Alberta Ag. & Forestry at the Marten Beach community clean-up event on Aug. 18.

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