The extreme fire danger in forests around Sundre and Nordegg is not going to immediately decrease with the coming cooler weather, warned Alberta Environment.
“We would like people to be extra cautious,” said department information officer Colby Lachance, since 67 per cent of last year’s wildfires were human-caused.
Lachance believes warmer weather has potentially extended tourism. “We’re seeing more people in the forest at this time… so we’re asking Albertans to be extra cautious when outdoors,” she added.
The forecast shows cooler temperatures are coming, with highs in the 7 C to 9 C area starting on Friday.
Although there could be showers or snow in the Sundre and Nordegg areas on Thursday or Saturday, there’s no appreciable precipitation in the forecast for the next seven days. And Lachance said consecutive days of cold, rain or snow are needed to reduce the combustibility of dry vegetation.
Although it’s very unusual to have fires this time of year, it’s been an unusually warm fall, she added. September in the Red Deer area was the eighth warmest on record, and many October days hit temperatures in the mid-20s.
On Wednesday, the fire danger rating across the province was at “overall extreme,” with particularly high pockets of concern to the east and southwest of Alberta, said Lachance.
“Any small spark can ignite these very dry fuels and start a wildfire.”
Fires can occur anytime if conditions are right, she added. “We have resources strategically placed across the province that are ready to respond when needed.”
Albertans are asked to please check albertafirebans.ca to see if they are in a fire restricted or banned area before heading out into the forest. Most areas of the province are under a fire advisory: That means Albertans can have campfires, but should use caution.
If you have a campfire to extinguish, “soak it, stir it and soak it again. Coals and any woody material in the fire ring should be cold to the touch,” she said.
Those camping or ATV-ing in areas of long dry grass “should please stop often, check your hot spots and carry water.
Landowners who want to burn debris should make sure they have a fire permit, and consider burning when conditions improve. “If burning is absolutely necessary, ensure you have sufficient water and fire fighting equipment on hand,” said Lachance.
Anyone who sees smoke or flame in the forest should please call 310-FIRE.