Wildfire season lasts in Alberta from March 1 to Oct. 31.
Photo Courtesy of Alberta Wildfire Facebook
Alberta Wildfire is reminding residents to get a fire permit before conducting burns in the Forest Protection Area as wildfire season begins Friday and lasts until Oct. 31.Kelly Burke, wildfire information officer, explained that the risk of wildfire was ever increasing due to changing climate and increased human activity in forests.“We have to become resilient and learn to live with wildfires,” Burke said. “Firesmarting principles are coming to a forefront and people really need to know how they can help and protect their property and if you live in the Forest Protection Area, you should take steps to protect your own property.”Fire permits are free and required during wildfire season for all burns, except campfires, in Alberta’s Forest Protection Area.“Knowing in advance where permitted burns are ensures that our firefighters aren’t responding to non-wildfires,” Burke said. “Each permit is unique in the outlines and constrictions of the burn. So, if you do require a permit, you need a fire guardian to come out and inspect.”Fire guardians outline where to locate the burn, what time of day or wind speeds are acceptable to conduct the burn, the deadline for extinguishing the fire and other requirements.Alberta Wildfire has been conducting hazard and risk assessment for the Grande Prairie Forest Area. Burke added they are currently working on a Wildfire Risk Management Plan, which will take another three years to complete.Last year, the Grande Prairie Forest Area experienced 42 wildfires that burned about 20 hectares. Out of these wildfires, humans caused 35 and lightning caused seven.While unable to predict what the 2019 wildfire season will bring, Burke said the heavy snowfall experienced this winter was a good sign for the local forest area.“If it melts slow, which is kind of what we want, it’ll feed into the ground and allow the grass to green up quicker,” she said. “If we get a really quick melt and the ground is still frozen, that water may not seep into the ground as far and just run off. So, what we’re hoping for is a long, slow spring.”Burke said wildfire smoke was a major concern.“We had very low visibility through the summer,” she said. “Our people up in our fire towers, they couldn’t see if there was a fire or not because there was so much smoke coming from B.C. and the U.S. So, it’s not just fires in Alberta but across North America that we have to be concerned about.”Last fire season, 1,288 wildfires burned more than 59,800 hectares in Alberta, while more than 60 per cent (777) of these wildfires were human-caused.“Protecting Albertans and their communities from the dangers of wildfires is our highest priority but wildfire prevention is a shared responsibility,” Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier in a statement. “More than half our wildfires are human-caused. Getting a permit, following any fire bans or restrictions and burning responsibly are simple ways we can all do our part to prevent wildfires.”Wildfires can be reported toll-free at 310-FIRE (3473). For fire permits, call the Grande Prairie office at (780) 538-5560.