EDMONTON- Dry conditions and high wind speeds have pushed the fire hazard to extreme levels in Alberta. As a result, the province has issued a fire weather advisory for central and southern Alberta.
“We don’t put these on very often nor lightly,” said Geoffrey Driscoll, a wildfire information officer with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
“The last time we put out a fire weather advisory was two years ago today, and that was just before fires burned into the Town of Slave Lake.”
Under the advisory, all burning permits within the Forest Protection Area of Alberta have been cancelled and no new permits will be issued. Officials say all burning outside of camp fires must be extinguished.
There currently 22 wildfires burning in Alberta, all but one of which are under control. One wildfire burning about two kilometres west of Nordegg is still considered out of control, and residents remain on a one-hour evacuation watch.
“The past two days firefighters have been able to really dig in and try to contain that wildfire. But today, with the fire weather advisory that we’ve seen, it’s really going to test those containment lines. So today is the day to really see if that fire’s going to spread or not.”
Winds are expected to reach speeds of 80 kilometres per hour over the next two days; that, combined with warm temperatures and low humidity, “is a real big recipe for wildfires,” according to Driscoll.
“If a wildfire does happen today what we’re going to see is it get really big, really fast and it’s going to be really hard for firefighters to control.”
Most wildfires are human-caused and Driscoll is urging people to be extremely careful, especially with the advisory that’s in place.
“We just don’t need these wildfires to start,” he said. “We need Albertans to do their part this weekend.”
So far this year crews have battled 188 wildfires in Alberta. At this time last year there had already been 250 wildfires. Driscoll attributes the lower number to a longer winter this year.
“But we’re right into it now. This is the time. That time when the snow has left, but the grass hasn’t started to become green and the leaves haven’t started to come out on the trees. This is our most dangerous time.”