Minister Oneil Carlier gets a hands on look at some of the tools used in wildland firefighting. Here wildland firefighter Ben Bartlett shows Carlier just one of the tools used.

Province readying for wildfire season start

Alberta’s wildfire season starts March 1 and wild land firefighters are setting themselves up for a busy season.

Alberta’s wildfire season starts March 1 and wildland firefighters are setting themselves up for a busy season.

Last year was a hot one for firefighters taking on 1,338 wildfires that took out 611,000 hectares. Chief among those fires was the Horse River wildfire that spread into Fort McMurray and became international news.

In preparation, the province has also increased penalties for abandoning fires or burning fires during a fire ban, states a release from the province. The new Forest and Prairie Protection Act was revised on Dec. 9, 2016 and provides fines those who don’t follow it.

Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, said in the release that protecting Albertans from the threat of wildfires is a high priority. “The wildfire that burned into Fort McMurray last year serves as a reminder of how important it is for us to be ready to respond to wildfires at a moment’s notice.”

Recent trends show that wildfires start early, he adds, pointing to why March 1 is marked as the start of the season.

Fines up to $1 million

A person who knowingly contravenes the act or fails to comply could face up to $100,000 in fines or imprisonment up to two years. In the case of a corporation that fine could go up to $1 million.

For those who contravene the act or fail to comply with the regulations, an individual could face up to $50,000, and prison up to one year, and a corporation could face a fine up to $500,000.

Hinton Mayor Rob Mackin said in the release that there were 17 wildfires started in his area because of abandoned campfires last year. “These new fines will help bring the economic consequences of being careless when it comes to fires in our forests more in line with the potential real consequences we have seen in the past.”

Tips to prevent a wildfire

• Make sure your campfire is out – soak it, stir it, and soak it again

• Keep an eye on any winter burning

Report a wildfire

The best way to report a wildfire is to call 310-FIRE (3473).

With the start of fire season, fire permits will be required for any burning, outside of campfires, in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta. This will allow firefighters to address any winter burning before the spring.  Fire permits are free and can be obtained by contacting your local Alberta Agriculture and Forestry office. Phone toll-free 310-0000 to locate your nearest office.