Prescribed fires in Rocky forest improve habitat, wildfire protection

Five areas slated for burning only when conditions permit

A map showing the prescribed burns for the Chunga, Blackstone and Wapiabi areas

A map showing the prescribed burns for the Chunga, Blackstone and Wapiabi areas

Prescribed burns in the forest west of Rocky Mountain House this year will help improve ungulate habitat and establish fuel breaks to protect from wildfire.

Agriculture and Forestry is planning up to five prescribed fires in the Rocky Forest Area — in the Blackstone, Chungo, Wapiabi, Hummingbird and Upper Clearwater areas.

The department will only commence with the burns when forecasted weather and on-the-ground conditions permit. Spring conditions are preferred to complete the projects, but operations may be underway anytime from spring through to late fall, it said in a release.

Prescribed fires are described as “the proactive, knowledgeable and controlled applications of fire to accomplish well-defined resource management objectives. These fires are applied under select weather conditions and managed to minimize risk and maximize the benefits to the site.”

Prescribed fire also helps reduce the threat of wildfire to communities by reducing the likelihood of large uncontrollable wildfires while creating a healthier forest.

The Blackstone prescribed fire is set at 6,795 acres 40 km northwest of Nordegg. The Chungo fire will be 1,200 acres, 47 km north west of Nordegg.

The Wapiabi will be 1,667 acres 25 km west of Nordegg, and the Hummingbird prescribed fire is 1,378 acres, 80 km south of Nordegg. The Upper Clearwater fire will be 1,161 acres, 50 km west of Caroline and 7 km east of Banff National Park.

Alberta’s wildfire season began on March 1. Last year more than 60 per cent of the wildfires in the province were caused by human activity.

There were 1,338 wildfires in 2016, which burned more than 1.5 million acres, including the devastating Horse River wildfire that spread into Fort McMurray.

So far this season there have been 68 wildfires in Alberta, mainly in the northern part of the province, in the High Level and Lac La Biche areas.