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Officials warn of high wildfire risk in southern Alberta

Click to play video: 'Northwestern Alberta residents forced to flee due to wildfire'
Northwestern Alberta residents forced to flee due to wildfire
WATCH: Wildfire season has already roared to life in parts of B.C. and Alberta, where an out-of-control blaze is burning just southwest of the town of Peace River. Kabi Moulitharan reports – Apr 24, 2024

Stefan Keenzle, a retired University of Lethbridge professor in the department of Geography and Environment, says conditions are primed for wildfires.

“It’s a drier soil, higher temperature, lower humidity — these are all things that make wildfire risks much higher,” Keenzle explained.

Only days into the wildfire season and crews have already helped battle blazes.

Troy Hicks, the Chief Fire Marshall with the Lethbridge Fire Department, looks to the hot dry summer and knows it will be busy for the Lethbridge crew.

“It’s been a very busy year. We’ve already been busy with grass fires. This past weekend we had numerous ones around the outskirts of town. It’s only a matter of time before it come into town.”

Click to play video: 'Officials warn of fire risk in southern Alberta'
Officials warn of fire risk in southern Alberta

Lethbridge County just days ago implemented a fire advisory for the region. As Heath Wright, the Emergency Services Manager of Lethbridge County explains, it’s a matter of awareness.

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“We would like the public to be aware that we’re in an advisory, and to be careful if they are doing some burns in the community to make sure that they do it responsibly,” Wright explained.

“I think everybody’s responsibility is to safety. Due to the dry conditions and drought conditions, we just want to make sure people take the extra step and plan.”

Click to play video: 'Wildfire briefly triggers evacuation worries in Lac Ste. Anne County'
Wildfire briefly triggers evacuation worries in Lac Ste. Anne County

According to Keenzluh, warmer weather is coming.

“The problem with a La Nina year is that it makes the summers even hotter and even drier,” Keenzle said.

“So, therefore, we can expect some severe heat domes like we have experienced in the last few years, and obviously with that, the risk of wildfires is increasing.”

With the conditions, the outlook and the environment, the summer months could mean a precarious few months for fire crews.

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“We would just like to make sure that people understand to take that extra step and be cognitive of their actions,” Wright explained.

“One example of that would be cigarettes. It’s unfortunate that some people would see fit to dispose of a cigarette out a car window and I would like to strongly encourage people not to do that.

“While, to you, it may not be much and sort of an ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ that farmer’s field could be gone.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta begins 2024 weekly wildfire updates'
Alberta begins 2024 weekly wildfire updates

In current conditions, both the county and the fire department want to get out the message that: it doesn’t take much to start, and it doesn’t take long to get out of control.

“We usually say that around here, a normal structure fire, that a fire will double in size every 10 seconds. When we’re talking a grass fire, for how dry it is here, and even on a nice normal calm day here in Lethbridge, we do still have wind and that fire could easily double in size every two to three seconds,” explained Hicks.

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The County of Lethbridge and the Fire Department of Lethbridge encourage the public to watch social media as well as their websites to keep up to date on fire bans, restrictions and advisories or even tips on how to stay safe.

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