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New Alberta wildfire prevention regulations take effect March 31

Heat waves are seen as cars and trucks drive past a wildfire south of Fort McMurray, Alberta on May 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

New wildfire protection regulations take effect Friday for the entire province of Alberta, the government announced Thursday.

The government says 70 per cent of the wildfires the province has seen in the past five years have been linked to human activity.

READ MORE: RCMP say Fort McMurray wildfire likely ‘result of human activity,’ investigate if blaze was criminal

The new regulations come after legislation was passed last fall which aimed to stop risky behaviours when it comes to open fires, and provide more support for firefighters.

“Last fall, we passed important legislation to help deter unsafe behaviour and give our wildland firefighters more tools to keep Albertans and their communities safe,” Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier said in a release.

“These strengthened regulations send a clear message that we all share a responsibility to help prevent wildfires.”

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The enhancements to the Forest and Prairie Protection Act include:

  • New penalties for things like burning without a permit or leaving a campfire unattended
  • Restricting the use of fireworks or exploding targets in the Forest Protection Area without proper permission
  • Improving disposal practices for flammable debris and other industry-based requirements

Imprisonment, or a fine of up to $100,000 is possible for those that knowingly disobey the act and start a wildfire.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire likely caused by humans: U of A professor

Any industrial workers that knowingly disobey the act, resulting in the start of a wildfire, could be fined up to $1 million. Corporations that commit less-severe violations are subject to fines of up to $100,000.

Officers will start issuing tickets to individuals found violating the act — the tickets will range from $172 to $575, depending on the seriousness of the violation.

Last spring, crews from Alberta and across the country battled The Beast — a nearly 590,000-hectare fire that burned out of control for days, forcing the evacuation of the entire municipality of Fort McMurray and destroyed parts of the city.

In total, the government says crews fought more than 1,300 wildfires in 2016, which destroyed more than 600,000 hectares of forest.

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