A small fire under control at a landfill near O’Chiese First Nation was the only wildfire burning in the Rocky Forest Area on Thursday in advance of the August long weekend.
But nobody knows what mother nature has in store so visitors to the area should Google — Alberta wildfires — for the latest information, said Barry Shellian, area information co-ordinator for Department of Agriculture and Forestry in Rocky.
So far this season wildfires have been less intense in the area, he said.
“It’s been a good year for us. In the Rocky area we’ve had 43 wildfires and only had 16.8 hectares burnt. So pretty quiet down here,” Shellian said.
He said evenings have been considerably cooler and moist and residents, industry and travellers are taking more responsibility to prevent fires, a trend he noticed last year. Smoke hanging in the air from fires raging right now in British Columbia, and memories of the Fort McMurray fire, may also be driving people to be more careful.
“I get constant phone calls and e-mails from people asking about fire bans, if it’s safe to burn. We’re getting more people inquiring about fire permits. They’re more inquisitive.”
Shellian said visitors are asking the same questions at the local tourism office.
“I see a lot more social media traffic about fire prevention and wildfire awareness. High five to the public for their participation.”
Last week two fires, both caused by lightning, were extinguished in the Nordegg area. The closest one to the community was about 15 km away.
He said firefighters were quick to douse the flames by air tanker and helicopter. It took a few days to put them out because of the deep organic ground cover. Firefighters spent a lot of time soaking the ground, stirring it and soaking it again like people are told to do with their campfires.
“That’s actually the bulk of our work. Digging in the dirt and putting it out. Once it digs into the soil, a fire can exist in the ground smouldering for a considerable length of time.”