Albertans asked to remain diligent as wildfire season progresses; more than 75 per cent of wildfires determined as human-caused

“At this time last year, Alberta had over 520,000 hectares of forest burned. Whereas so far in 2024 we have just under 29,000 hectares burned.”

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Recent rain in many areas of the province has led to a significant decline in active wildfires, but experts are warning Albertans to remain diligent with over three quarters of this year’s wildfires determined as human-caused.

At Thursday’s weekly wildfire update Forestry and Parks Minister Todd Loewen said preparation from Alberta Wildfire and municipal firefighters have allowed the province to take advantage of favourable weather conditions. He said there is currently a wildfire that started in the Northwest Territories in 2023 that is burning along the border north of High Level and both Alberta and N.W.T fire crews are actively fighting the fire. 

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He said at this time the wildfire poses “little risk” to infrastructure and said it is anticipated that in the next few days, Alberta’s side of the wildfire will be classified as held.

“We also continue to experience success with our response tactics and the improvements we’ve made since last wildfire season demonstrated by the considerable decline in area burned. At this time last year, Alberta had over 520,000 hectares of forest burned. Whereas so far in 2024 we have just under 29,000 hectares burned,” Loewen said.

Albertans asked to remain cautious of fires

There are currently 30 wildfires burning in the forest protection area, two-thirds are carry over wildfires from the 2023 season, three are classified as being held and the rest are under control.

So far this year the province has responded to 358 wildfires, of them 346 have been extinguished. This year 77 per cent of wildfires have been determined to be human-caused.

While a wet and cool long weekend helped to provide favourable wildfire fighting conditions and several areas in Alberta are expecting rain in the coming days, Loewen stressed that if there are stretches of dry and windy conditions, wildfire activity could easily ramp up.

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Over the May long-weekend, 25 abandoned campfires were detected in the Calgary forest area. Between Friday and Monday, there were 33 new fire starts detected, and the majority were determined to be caused by people recreating outdoors.

“Our patrols visited popular recreation areas and random camping sites to share wildfire information and answer questions. I’d like to thank the many people who took care to follow the fire restrictions and bans in place to help us reduce human caused wildfires this weekend. As the weather warms up, we will respond if we see the wildfire danger rising again,” said Christy Tucker, Alberta Wildfire information manager.

“Firefighters, aircraft and heavy equipment have continued working with more than 200 firefighters on the ground to reinforce containment lines and extinguish hot spots.”

Fort McMurray evacuation order lifted

Last week’s out of control wildfire near Fort McMurray which prompted an evacuation order forcing over 6,000 residents to leave their homes has lifted over the weekend. The wildfire is now classified as being held.

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The province has lifted and amended a number of restrictions and bans, with Loewen pointing to lower wildfire danger and favourable weather conditions. The fire ban in the southern part of Fort McMurray’s forest area has been lowered to a fire advisory and off highway vehicle restriction has been lifted. A fire ban remains in effect in the northern section of Fort McMurray’s forest area and a fire advisory is in effect in the High Level forest area.

“While current wildfire danger area burned and the number of active wildfires are encouraging it’s important to remember that conditions can change very quickly in Alberta leading to heightened wildfire danger and activity,” Loewen said.

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