A recent prescribed burn underway in the Blackstone area northwest of Nordegg in the Rocky Forest Area. (Photo contributed)

Rocky forest wildfire hazard expected to climb with heat

So far there have been 26 wildfires in area

The wildfire hazard in the Rocky Forest Area was moderate on Tuesday but with hotter temperatures forecast later in the week, it is expected to rise.

Barry Shellian, area information co-ordinator for Department of Agriculture and Forestry in Rocky, said after it rained and the hazard dropped in the High Level area, air tankers based there have been relocated to Rocky.

There were no fires burning in the Rocky Forest Protection Area as of Tuesday afternoon. The area has had 26 wildfires so far this year, which have burned only about 22 acres. Eighteen of the fires in the area were human caused, four were caused by lightning and four are still under investigation, Shellian said.

There was near-normal winter and spring precipitation and brown grasses turned green sooner, essentially getting the forest past the dry spring fire season. The result has been a normal wildfire season in the Rocky forest so far this year, Shellian said.

An ongoing prescribed fire in the Blackstone area northwest of Nordegg is expected to continue later this week. Crews will return to the area for the third time this season, Shellian said, providing specific weather conditions occur. So far 1,900 acres have been successfully burned.

Prescribed burns create a healthier eco-environment and a green forest in the future, which creates a fire barrier that lasts for decades. They also reduce the intensity of wildfires.

Hazard reduction burns to help eliminate problems have also taken place in the Rocky forest. Before the May long weekend, wildfire crews went out to areas in the forest where people traditional camp, such as the Brazeau and Big Horn dams, and the North and South Fork roads, and burned off dry grasses. This also results in green grass for wildlife to forage on, Shellian said.

The new Forest and Prairie Protection Act this year allows for tickets to be written for a number of violations. For example, leaving a campfire unattended can result in a $287 ticket. Operating an off-highway vehicle where it is prohibited by a fire ban or forest closure can result in a $575 ticket.

Overall, the province has seen 655 fires, and a total of 6,900 acres burned as of Tuesday morning when there were 11 wildfires burning in the province, most of them in Northern Alberta, and all under control. There is a high fire hazard in Southern Alberta in the Crow area.


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