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From fire restrictions to bans: What Albertans need to know as the temperature warms up

As Alberta prepares for what’s expected to be another busy fire season in 2024, many municipalities are restricting activities in an effort to prevent fires from getting out of control.

As of Thursday, there were 53 wildfires burning in Alberta, 11 of which were classified as active.

“We’ve had 114 fires since the first of January,” said Derrick Forsythe, wildfire information officer with Alberta Wildfire.

“This time of year — from when the snow leaves the ground to when we get the green up — is kind of the most volatile time.”

As of Thursday afternoon, as many as 15 municipalities had declared a fire ban including Leduc County, south of Edmonton, where officials told Global News it was necessary because of  “an increased risk of wildfire due to dry conditions and high winds.”

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“It’s a little ahead of what we would normally see,” said Roger Anger, deputy chief with the Leduc County Fire Service. “We continue to monitor conditions and this year we are definitely seeing drier conditions than we normally would.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta preparing for the worst ahead of 2024 wildfire season'

Alberta preparing for the worst ahead of 2024 wildfire season

Anger said the heightened awareness coming off of 2023 has meant his fire crews have done more preparation this year, including the purchase of additional equipment and training.

According to Government of Alberta, a fire ban indicates extreme fire risk and prohibits wood campfires on public land, campgrounds and private land including backyard fire pits.

“I think a lot of jurisdictions are taking those precautions early to prevent any human-caused wildfires from starting,” Forsythe said.

Parkland County, Mayerthorpe, Lac Ste Anne County and several summer villages in central Alberta including Seba Beach, have all enacted fire bans.

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Several municipalities in northwestern Alberta, where fire officials have said the wildfire danger is extreme, have also placed fire bans in effect. That includes the Town of Fairview, Clear Hills County, MD of Greenview #16, MD of Peace #135.

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North and western Alberta is home to dense boreal forest where, under the right conditions, fires can quickly rage out of control.

Click to play video: 'Alberta wildfires have scorched 2x as much land than a normal year — and it’s only May 10'

Alberta wildfires have scorched 2x as much land than a normal year — and it’s only May 10

There are currently no fire bans in southern Alberta, but several fire advisories.

According to the Alberta government’s website, a fire advisory indicates the fire danger rating has increased and fire permits may be restricted.

There are more than 25 fire advisories across Alberta including in Rocky View County near Calgary, the Calgary Forest Area, the City of Lethbridge and Town of Taber.

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In central Alberta,  Ponoka County, the County of Brazeau, the City of Spruce Grove and Strathcona County have all issued fire advisories.

“Human-cause wildfires are pretty much all we see this time of year because it’s a little early for lightning, so we really need to take care to minimize the risk this time of year,” Forsythe added.

Click to play video: 'New Alberta Wildfire recruits prepare for fire season'

New Alberta Wildfire recruits prepare for fire season

In Strathcona County where an advisory was issued Wednesday, officials said it was due to a “lack of rain that has led to drier conditions.”

Fires are still allowed in Strathcona County but further restrictions may be put in place if conditions worsen. The County asked residents to “use caution when burning.”

“The conditions are drying out and it’s too windy to burn right now,” said Deputy fire chief Gordon George with Strathcona County Emergency Services.

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All fire permit holders in the county must call Strathcona County’s 24 hour Burning Status Line at 780-464-8464 or text the word “BURN” to 587-340-3696 each time they plan to burn to confirm that conditions allow for it.

“We’ve already seen several grassfires in the last couple of days, all of them are human-caused. Before the grass and leaves green up is the riskiest time for fires, it can quickly get out of control,” George confirmed.

George said the county takes several factors into consideration before fire restrictions are put in place, including a daily fire weather forecast, which helps firefighters determine the risk of fire.

County crews have responded to six fires in the past two days, most have been sparked near rail lines, although one was caused by inappropriate burning.

“It’s really about how much time we have before we green up,” George added.

“This is the most dangerous time.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta mountain towns prepare for expected busy wildfire season'

Alberta mountain towns prepare for expected busy wildfire season

Banff National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park are also under advisories, which state campfires are only designated in Parks Canada metal fire rings or boxes.

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According to the province, a fire restriction prohibits the use of wood campfires on public land but does allow wood campfires inside provincial campgrounds and private property. Fire permits may be restricted, suspended or cancelled and new fire permits may not be issued.

The municipalities that have issued restrictions include, the City of Grande Prairie, Peace River, Hinton, Drumheller, Westlock County and Jasper National Park.

“The good thing is that this year we’re seeing a lot of people take preventative measures, especially after last year, there’s a heightened awareness,” Forsythe said.

For a full list of the municipalities under fire restrictions head to albertafirebans.ca.

Click to play video: 'Difficult Canadian wildfire season expected to start early'

Difficult Canadian wildfire season expected to start early

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