Tinder-dry conditions across most of Alberta have triggered a provincewide fire ban.
As of noon on Monday, all open fires, including those in campgrounds, back country or random camping areas in the province’s forest protection areas, will not be allowed. Portable propane fire pits and gas or propane stoves and barbecues designed for cooking or heating are OK.
All fire permits are suspended or cancelled and no new fire permits will be issued.
“(The ban) is a combination of how dry the province is, plus the resource capacity we have to fight these wildfires,” said Kristofer Heemeryck, wildfire prevention officer in the Rocky Wildfire Management Area.
“The natural-occurring ones are hard enough to fight. We don’t need those reckless or nuisance fires from campfires or from off-highway vehicles, the stuff that can be prevented.”
More than 1,300 wildland firefighters and 100 aircraft are battling the wildfires already underway. Firefighters and other resources from Ontario and Quebec are arriving to help. Since April 1, Alberta has seen 629 wildfires that have burned 13,098 hectares (32,350 acres). Municipalities and provincial parks are not covered by the ban, but many have their own restrictions in place.
Clearwater County followed with its own open fire ban, which went into effect at 1 p.m. Fire advisories were in effect in all other Central Alberta rural municipalities as of Monday. For more information, go to www.albertafirebans.ca.
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development rates the wildfire hazard as “very high” in the Rocky Wildfire Management Area, a huge swath of natural area west of Rocky Mountain House extending from Drayton Valley in the north to Sundre in the south and west to the Jasper and Banff National Parks.
Heemeryck said conditions in the West Country remain hot and dry, with no rain falling in the last few days.
“It just continues to be a hot, dry spring for us. And we don’t need any of the what I’ll call the reckless fires, the campfires that get away, the stuff that can be prevented,” he said.
As of Monday, there were 30 wildfires burning — five out of control — around the province. Four are burning but are under control in the West Country, which so far has gotten off lightly with only 110 acres burned from the 63 relatively minor fires reported so far this year.
“It only takes one bad one to change that. Yesterday we had about an 11.5-hectare (28-acre) fire and we were lucky to catch it,” he said, of the blaze that was south of the Drayton Valley area.