Clearwater burn going ahead

A prescribed burn in the Clearwater Forest will go ahead as planned on Wednesday despite the extreme fire hazard, says a ranger based in Rocky Mountain House.

A prescribed burn in the Clearwater Forest will go ahead as planned on Wednesday despite the extreme fire hazard, says a ranger based in Rocky Mountain House.

Barry Shellian, wildfire ranger for the Clearwater Forest Area, said on Monday that crews are gearing up for a burn on Ram Mountain, located 40 km west of Rocky Mountain House, unless there is a marked change in weather conditions or resources are needed elsewhere.

The same crews used for putting out and controlling wildfires are also used to conduct prescribed burns, which are part of a long-term forestry management program, said Shellian.

The 215-acre Ram Mountain burn, originally planned for mid-July, was postponed at the time because crews were busy battling wildfires in other parts of the province.

Provincial foresters are working with the Alberta Sheep Foundation on the burn, which has been set up to enhance bighorn sheep habitat, encourage diversity in the landscape and increase knowledge about fire and its benefits to the ecosystem.

Motorists on Hwy 11 and the Forestry Trunk Road should be able to see the column of smoke as they drive through the area, said Shellian.

While the fire hazard is extreme in the West Country, conditions have not reached the point where Alberta Sustainable Resources would issue a fire ban, said Shellian.

The burn would not go ahead if conditions were that extreme because the crews needed to control the burn would probably be needed for firefighting instead, he said.

Temperature, humidity and wind are among the factors that come to play as scientists make plans for the burn, which is to start at the bottom of the mountain and move upward.

Fire breaks have been created to keep the fire from moving out of the target area, said Shellian.

“We wouldn’t want an overachievement,” he said.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development reported a total of 37 new wildfires across the province as of 10 a.m. on Monday, including one fire in the Rocky Mountain House area.

Although fire bans are now in place across the southeast areas of the province, none had been issued in Central Alberta as of Monday afternoon.

There have been 90 wildfires in the Rocky area so far this year, affecting 1,007 acres of forest.

Of those fires, 87 have been put out and three remain active, including one new fire.

None of the three are considered out of control.

For more information about wildfires, prescribed burns and fire bans, visit www.srd.alberta.ca.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com