Officials gain control of wildfires

An Alberta wildfire season to remember is drawing to a close. Geoffrey Driscoll, wildfire information officer with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, said this year there were a lot of ups and downs across the province.

An Alberta wildfire season to remember is drawing to a close.

Geoffrey Driscoll, wildfire information officer with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, said this year there were a lot of ups and downs across the province.

Eighty-two wildfires burned 758.88 hectares so far this season in the Clearwater region which runs west, north and south of Rocky Mountain House.

Three of those wildfires are currently burning and all are under control.

At the same time last year, 71 wildfires burned 55.48 hectares.

Driscoll said were about 400 fewer wildfires in the province compared to the five-year average for this time of year.

“A lot of it is the weather because it was cooler in June and July,” said Driscoll.

“I’d like to say there was less fires because people were so much more aware because of the tragedies of Slave Lake and the giant fire north of Fort McMurray.”

The fire season started quickly with the massive Slave Lake fire and the Richardson wildfire, north of Fort McMurray, both starting on May 14.

“It was extremely busy. We spent the rest of the season catching up after that,” said Driscoll.

These days, anyone who sees smoke in the Rocky Mountain House area, it is likely a prescribed burn.

There’s currently a burn underway in the Hat Mountain area, near the Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch southwest of Rocky Mountain House.

This burn is one of three that were scheduled for this year in the Clearwater-Red Deer River area, and part of the provincial burn program.

Burns were also slated for the South Idlewilde and Upper Clearwater.

Barry Shellian, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development forestry information officer for Clearwater forest area, said it was either too wet or too dry and resources were tied up managing active wildfires to proceed with the other two scheduled burns.

The Hat Mountain burn started on Sept. 20 and to date, 420 hectares have burned.

“It actually rained out there in the last 24 hours so it rained enough that we won’t be successful in ignition operations until that dries out,” said Shellian. “Based on the forecast it could take a couple days.”

The controlled fire is expected to wrap up sometime before the end of fire season.

Prescribed burns help with ecological restoration including improving and expanding wildlife habitat and wildlife management.

The fire hazard is moderate in the Clearwater region.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

— copyright Red Deer Advocate

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