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Campfires restricted in Kananaskis Country as southern Alberta fire risk increases

Click to play video: 'Alberta brings in new fire restrictions and bans amid hot, dry weather' Alberta brings in new fire restrictions and bans amid hot, dry weather
WATCH: Those heading to the backcountry in parts of Alberta now have some new rules when it comes to starting that campfire. Tomasia DaSilva reports on the new restrictions and risks – Aug 9, 2022

Continuing hot and dry conditions have prompted officials to put a fire restriction in a stretch of the Rocky Mountains and foothills.

Tuesday morning, the province issued a fire restriction for the Calgary Forest Area and parts of the Rocky Mountain House Forest Area. The area that stretches from Waterton Lakes National Park wraps around Banff National Park and reaches up to Jasper National Park. Most of the popular Kananaskis Country is part of that fire restriction.

“For those campers in the random camping areas, we just simply cannot have any campfires right now,” Alberta Wildfire spokesperson Anastasia Drummond told Global News.

Read more: Evacuation order lifted in Clearwater County as Nordegg wildfire being held

Wood campfires in backcountry camping areas are also prohibited. But campfires using metal fire rings in campgrounds and backyard fire pits are allowed.

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All existing fire permits are suspended and outdoor fires burning under permits must be extinguished.

Fireworks and exploding targets are also not allowed under the fire restriction.

Drummond said a wet June and subsequent plant growth has delayed putting restrictions in place.

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Crews battling Keremeos Creek Wildfire brace for potential lightning in forecast – Aug 8, 2022

“We’re at the time of year where the grass is starting to cure, it’s getting very dry, a lot of the smaller fuels are drying out, which just means there’s a lot of fuel for any wildfires that could ignite,” she said. “Combine that with these winds, these warm temperatures and no real precipitation in the forecast: we’re at the point now where we have to restrict these campfires.”

The rest of the Rocky Mountain House Forest Area was put on fire advisory on Tuesday.

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“Fine fuels and wooden debris are very dry and could ignite easily from any spark, friction or hot exhaust. Use extreme caution when working or recreating outdoors,” the province’s fire bans portal said.

Read more: Unpredictable winds, topography complicating wildfire response, experts say

A fire ban was also put in place in the town of Canmore on Tuesday.

No burning of wood or charcoal is allowed under that ban, but gas or propane stoves, barbecues and fire pits are allowed.

And effective Thursday, fire advisories will be in effect for Alberta Special Areas 2, 3 and 4, an area that stretches from Drumheller in the west to the Saskatchewan border to the east, from CFB Suffield to the south to Provost, Alta. in the north.

“The Special Areas Board advises extreme caution and that only necessary burning should take place,” a press release said. “The public is asked to ensure all fires are attended to and completely extinguished before leaving unattended.”

The latest changes in fire conditions follow more notices put in place last week.

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On Friday, Banff National Park and the town of Banff received fire bans.

“Right now, the fire danger is rated as extreme within Banff National Park, which is the highest fire danger that we have,” Jane Park, a fire and vegetation specialist with Parks Canada, said. “Basically, it means that things are quite dry out there. And if a fire were to start right now, it would start quite easily and spread quite quickly.”

“Throughout July, we’ve only received about 50 per cent of the average precipitation that we get in July in Banff. And so we’ve been fluctuating around high and extreme for several weeks here.”

Foothills County, Lethbridge County, Vulcan County, and the Municipal District of Willow Creek were all put on fire restrictions earlier in the week.

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In Late July, Rocky View County and the Town of Cochrane were put on fire advisories.

The latest fire warnings in southern Alberta come as the same areas also are under heat warnings from Environment and Climate Change Canada. High temperatures are expected to reach and exceed 30 C for much of the week.

“Particularly in the last week, we’ve seen virtually no precipitation, we’re seeing these extreme temperatures, the wind is starting to kick up and, on top of that, it’s been quite dry. So we’re now at a point where we have to make further restrictions,” Drummond said.

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On the other side of the Alberta-B.C. border, southeast British Columbia and the Kamloops Fire Centre region also have bans on open fires, campfires, fireworks, torches and exploding targets. There are currently eight wildfires of note in B.C., all in the Southeast and Kamloops fire centres.

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