Brutal wildfire season expected in Alberta due to unusually dry spring

WATCH: The hot dry weather may be a treat for weekend revelers, but it’s a growing concern for fire officials. Sarah Offin reports.

CALGARY – Crews from across the country are headed to Alberta, ahead of what’s expected to be a tough fire season.

Farmers aren’t the only ones battling dry conditions.

Fire crews say even a small grass fires, like the one that broke out Friday in Rocky View, is being treated as urgent this season.

‘It’s long grass and it’s all dry and as soon as the wind picks up it blows all that moisture out, it doesn’t take a long time for the fire to get moving,” Cpt. Andrew Mardell with the Rocky View County Fire Department said.

Rocky View County, Redwood Meadows and Tsuu Tina fire fighters acted fast Friday morning, keeping the blaze from spreading through acreages west of Calgary.

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“These fires spread very quickly. They need very little wind. Although, the wind does make the fire move faster and sometimes faster than people could walk or outrun the fires.” Cpt. Mardell said.

Much of the province is plagued by drought, pushing the fire hazard to very high or extreme throughout most of northern Alberta, as well as west along the Foothills.

Janelle Lane, an officer from Wildfire Information says we had an early spring with the snow melting, which means the ground has a lot more time to dry out.

“As it continues to dry, the wildfire hazard will keep on increasing. Compared to last year, we do have more wildfires but we’re prepared for anything,” Lane said.

Almost 600 wildfires have scorched parts of Alberta since April 1st and about two dozen are still burning.

“For pretty early in the season, it’s burning quite deep,” Lane said.

The threat isn’t isolated to rural Alberta, at least two fires burned within Calgary city limits Friday, just metres from nearby homes.

There’s an anticipation that there will be more so extra resources have been called in.

About 130 Ontario fire fighters joined Alberta crews, preparing for an early start to a wicked wildfire season.

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“It could be as simple as debris being blown up into the power lines it could be as simple as a bird strike.”

By mid afternoon, the fire in Rocky View County was roughly the size of a football field Friday.

An investigation into the early stages of the fire continue but fire officials say it may have been caused by power lines, possibly by a bird hitting them and falling onto the dry grass.

Conditions have been unusually dry this spring and there is more hot dry weather in the forecast.


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