Officials give update on Alberta fire situation

Fire bans and off-highway vehicle bans in place in southern Alberta

With the fire hazard having grown steadily in southern parts of Alberta and the forests throughout the mountain areas, stronger prevention measures have been put in place. This includes the restriction of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) on public lands in the Forest Protection Area south of the Red Deer River along the mountains and foothills to the northern boundary of Waterton Lakes National Parks.

“OHV’s can cause wildfires when debris gets caught up in the hot spots of the vehicle,” said Oneil Carlier, minister of Agriculture and Forestry in a news conference held Tuesday morning.

He said the OHV ban will help reduce the chance that a wildfire will start in this already dry area.

On July 19th, acting on advice from the wildfire experts in agriculture and forestry, an order was issued putting a fire ban in place across parts of southern Alberta’s forests.

“Last week, we increased the area of that fire ban to include all forests south of the Red Deer River,” said Carlier.

Since that time, there has been no significant rain or cooler temperatures to offer relief.

“Our wildfire hazard numbers continued to increase over the weekend and we expect them to continue to grow going into the long weekend.”

He said folks at the Wildfire Coordination Centre spent a lot of time monitoring the forest and recording what the conditions are like. They haven’t seen numbers like this in southern Alberta since 2003 when the Lost Creek wildfire burned more than 20,000 hectares of forest, threatening communities in the Crowsnest Pass area.

“Across northern Alberta the fire season and fire hazard has been below average which means that we’re able to support the southern parts of Alberta with firefighters as well as send firefighters to B.C. to help them with their situation there,” he said.

Alberta currently has 689 firefighters, 69 helicopters, 40 pieces of heavy equipment and 18 airtankers available across the province. An additional 200 are deployed in British Columbia, and those resources are available if required.

“Alberta’s Emergency Management Agency stands ready to respond and continues to closely monitor wildfire conditions across the province as well as within BC. As Albertans know all too well, disasters and emergencies can strike at any time. That’s why I encourage all Albertans to download the Alberta Emergency Alert app so they know what’s happening in their area and the actions they need to take to protect themselves and their families,” said Shaye Anderson, minister of municipal affairs.

Currently, no fires are permitted during the fire ban, including campfires in campgrounds, until further notice. Gas or propane stoves/barbecues and portable propane fire pits are allowed during the ban.

All fire permits are suspended and no new permits will be issued in the fire ban areas. The use of fireworks and exploding targets is also prohibited.

Albertans found to be violating the fire ban could be issued a $287 ticket.

Other jurisdictions, including municipalities and provincial parks, may also issue fire restrictions or bans. Check albertafirebans.ca for detailed information.

carlie.connolly@reddeerexpress.com