Alberta declares March 1 as start of wildfire season, a month earlier than usual, after mild winter leaves forest conditions dry and risk of early wildfires high
February 29, 2012
– The Alberta government has declared March 1 as the start of wildfire season so that people, equipment and aircraft are in place early after a mild winter has left many areas with little or no snow, and dry forest conditions. Wildfire season usually is declared to start on April 1.
Winter precipitation levels in most areas of the province are less than what they usually are at this time of year, even with the recent snowfall in some parts.
“This year, we have a higher risk of early wildfire, and resources have been on alert in high hazard areas throughout the winter,” said Frank Oberle, Minister of Sustainable Resource Development. “We are positioning additional personnel and equipment throughout the province’s forested area to respond quickly and effectively to protect people and property when wildfires are detected.”
Starting the wildfire season early gives the province a head start after a destructive wildfire season in 2011. Last year’s wildfires burned 950,000 hectares. That’s more than 12 times the five year average of 78,097 hectares. The 1,139 wildfires last year were below the five year average of 1,667 per year during 2006-2010.
In 2011, about 80 per cent of wildfire starts were human-caused, compared to the usual 60 per cent. Albertans who live in or visit the province’s forested areas are reminded to take precautions when burning. Beginning March 1, all burning activities in Alberta’s Forest Protection Area, excluding campfires, will require a fire permit. Fire permits are free and available at any Sustainable Resource Development office.
FireSmart activities like creating fire breaks and tree thinning help protect homes and communities from the threat of wildfire. A Homeowners FireSmart Manual is available at srd.alberta.ca/Wildfire/FireSmart, along with other tips and techniques to FireSmart your community. Government uses prescribed burning as an important tool to help reduce the size and intensity of future wildfires by removing fine fuels, like dead and dry grasses in open areas.
Keep up to date on wildfire activity in the province by “liking” the Alberta Wildfire Information page on Facebook, and following @ABGovWildfire on Twitter. To report a wildfire in Alberta, call 310-FIRE (3473). For information about fire bans and forest closures, visit www.albertafirebans.ca.