Alberta wildfire season ‘quiet’; officials caution that could quickly change

Click to play video 'Alberta wildfire season ‘quiet’; officials warn situation could change quickly' Alberta wildfire season ‘quiet’; officials warn situation could change quickly
This year's wildfire season has been well below average in terms of the size and number of fires. Alberta wildfire officials warn that could quickly change with the current hot dry weather and are urging people to use caution. Lauren Pullen reports. – Aug 18, 2020

It’s been an incredibly quiet year for Alberta wildfire crews.

So far this season both the number of fires and the amount of hectares burned has been well below the five year average.

“This year has been a bit of an anomaly compared to previous years,” Alberta Wildfire Information Officer Travis Fairweather said.

As of August 18 there have been 513 wildfires in the province– the five-year average is over double that at 1,218.

None of the fires this year have been very large according to Fairweather.

Only 786 hectares have been burned in the 2020 season. Compare that to the five year average – usually we’ve seen 406,179 hectares burned each year by this time.

“It’s definitely one of our lowest years on record,” Fairweather said. “But certainly with this hot weather…that can change in the course or a few days or weeks.”

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Read more: Coronavirus: Is the pandemic contributing to a slower Alberta wildfire season?

The wildfire danger rating for the Calgary Forest Area is very high.

“The fire spread danger is incredible right now with how dry it is, and how hot it is, things are literally explosive,” Redwood Meadows fire chief Rob Evans said. “Even a recreational fire, just in a normal fire pit… if it was to get away on someone, it could get into the trees and spread quite rapidly and become very dangerous very quickly.”

The townsite has urged rural property owners to help mitigate wildfires.

“Redwood Meadows has been really good this year about fire smarting their community and our houses and property,” Evans said. “We’ve had a lot of people cleaning up their houses this year of dead growth and dead trees.”

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Campfires are still allowed in private and provincial campgrounds, but officials are also warning campers to be cautious by only having fires in designated fire pits, keeping them small, having water on hand and making sure the fire is fully extinguished before leaving it unattended.

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Alberta Wildfire officials say roughly 60 per cent of all wildfires are human caused.

“We just want to remind Albertans to help do their part to prevent human-caused wildfires,” Fairweather said. “Those wildfires are 100 per cent preventable and anything from an abandoned campfire to off-highway vehicle use can start a wildfire and we just want people to use extra caution.”