With temperatures more like mid-summer weather than early spring, the wildfire hazard in the Rocky Forest Area was raised to extreme on Monday.
The high for the Rocky Mountain House area is expected to reach 27C with low relative humidity today. On Monday, the forecast was for a high of 24C with winds gusting to 50 km/h and relative humidity only 15 to 20 per cent.
Kristopher Heemeryck, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry wildfire prevention officer for the Rocky Forest Protection area, said Monday that while it’s common for spring to be dry and the wildfire hazard to be higher before it greens up, it’s a month earlier than normal this year.
One new wildfire in the forest area was discovered on Monday west of Olds. The current conditions, which include dried cured grasses, high temperatures, low humidity and wind, are a concern.
“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Heemeryck said.
If there’s a grass fire, it’s going to spread very quickly and has the potential to get in to trees.
Those trees are just coming out of their winter state and have very little moisture in the foliage, so are susceptible to wildfire, he said.
Forest conditions could improve if the forecast for the weekend holds. A 60 per cent chance of showers is forecast for each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as cooler temperatures between 12C and 15C.
A fire advisory for the Rocky forest is currently in effect. No burning permits are being issued and existing permits have been cancelled. Although safe campfires are still allowed, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry was recommending Monday that no burning take place at all until weather conditions improve.
In the 24-hour period preceding 10 a.m. Monday, the Rocky Forest Protection Area had three new wildfires. There had been 28 wildfires to that point, consuming about 117 acres
Fire bans are currently in place for several Central Alberta areas, including the counties of Red Deer, Lacombe, Ponoka, Stettler, Kneehill, and the communities of Bashaw, Ponoka, Blackfalds, Trochu and Rochon Sands.