Fire bans in place across Alberta as province braces for wildfire season

Fire bans climbing across Alberta as weather warms
WATCH ABOVE: Fire bans are in place across several parts of central and southern Alberta and as Vinesh Pratap reports, several of the bans are just outside of Edmonton, meaning a number of officials are keeping a close eye on the situation.

EDMONTON — April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, but a lack of precipitation has prompted more Alberta counties to declare fire bans.

As the province braces for another wildfire season, three municipalities near Edmonton issued fire bans Friday: Leduc County located south of Edmonton, County of Minburn No. 27 located east of Edmonton, and the Summer Village of Itaska Beach on Pigeon Lake.

“Due to extremely dry conditions, forecasted temperatures and windy conditions, a Fire Ban has been imposed for all of Leduc County,” said the ban notification.

Under the bans, open fires like camp fires, burning barrels and setting off fireworks is not permitted. Existing fire permits have been suspended and new ones will not be issued.

Cooking and heating appliances fuelled by liquid, such as propane and natural gas barbecues, are still OK to use.

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Minburn County landowners who have recently burned brush piles or other debris are being asked to check their burns and ensure the area is extinguished.

Beaver County declared a ban Tuesday for the areas that surround Highway 14 extending southeast of Edmonton, including the towns of Tofield, Ryley, Holden and Viking.

READ MORE: First fire ban of the season issued for central Alberta

Several southern Alberta counties have had fire bans in place for weeks already, including M.D. of Foothills along the south side of Calgary’s city limits and Cypress County surrounding Medicine Hat.

Vulcan County has a fire restriction in place, while 16 other municipalities have fire advisories.

Fire bans, restrictions and advisories are managed by individual counties in Alberta. As each county assesses its current wildfire risk, more restrictions could be added while others get lifted.

READ MORE: Alberta to start wildfire season a month early

The Alberta government officially started its wildfire season on March 1. The province has been starting its wildfire season a month early since the year after the May 2011 fire that destroyed part of the town of Slave Lake and forced thousands of people from their homes.

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READ MORE: Two years later, cause of Slave Lake fire still not known

Hot, dry weather also made 2015 a bad year for wildfires across western Canada.

There were 1,786 wildfires in Alberta — more than twice the 25-year average. Crews managed to contain 93 per cent of them within about a day and prevented flames from entering any communities. The cost wasn’t cheap, though. Alberta spent $474 million on firefighting last year.

Fires north of Prince Albert, Sask., forced about 13,000 people from their homes and burned 17,000 square kilometres of timber. British Columbia recorded more than 1,836 wildfires last year that burned 2,804 square kilometres.

There were so many wildfires in 2015 that the three provinces brought in crews from other countries to help out. Saskatchewan also called in Canadian Army units.

With files from The Canadian Press