After a record-breaking wildfire season, regions like Grande Prairie have been subject to unseasonably warm and dry conditions heading into the winter season, meaning more wildfires could come before the year is over.
According to Alberta Wildfire, 67 wildfires are still burning across the province and 19 new human-caused wildfires have started since October 31st.
Wildfire Information Officer for the Grande Prairie Forest Area Kelly Burke says it is vital that Albertans stay informed on wildfire prevention measures, even in winter. According to Burke, 10 wildfires have sprung up in the Grande Prairie region since October 18th, with two in November alone.
“There’s still 500 investigations, and 14 have been confirmed to be human caused, so totally preventable wildfires,”
Burke says forest fires can be prevented with just a few simple steps, including waiting until there is 15cm of snow on the ground to burn and making sure to stir, soak, and stir any campfires you might start over the winter.
“Always extinguish your campfire, if people are out hunting or recreating, and they want to have a little cooking and warming fire, that’s fine but always extinguish it,” she says. “Here there is an increased chance of forest fire because we haven’t had very much precipitation at all leading up to the Fall and now holdover fires are a big concern for us in the Spring.”
Burke adds that 19 forest fires in less than a month in November is alarming for the region as seasonal workers for Alberta wildfire are largely off duty during the winter, and the number of firefighters required simply isn’t enough to reach demand over winter.
“The majority of our seasonal staff has finished their contracts meaning that the number of firefighters available just aren’t there, so we’ve greatly reduced, but we’ve seen increased fire danger and we’re also seeing wildfires occur,” she says. “We’re going to have to know where these hotspots are and monitor address them come Spring,”
Alberta Wildfire emphasizes the importance of taking care when lighting fires due to dry conditions, and residents are asked to ensure all fires are completely out before leaving an area.