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Fires are adding up quickly

Fire and ice. It’s that time of the northern Alberta year where the two extremes co-exist.

Alberta Wildfire officials are cautioning residents that some of the most volatile conditions for forest fires take place in the spring months. There might still be ice on the lake, snow in the back yard and sub-zero temperatures at night — but at the same time, much of the undergrowth slowly emerging from the seasonal melt is fire-starter.

Speaking of fire-starters, guess who starts most of the fires that burn up the Alberta forests each year? Need a hint? No you don't. In the 2022 fire season, almost two thirds of the 1,200 wildfires reported were human-caused. The same season saw more than 130,000 hectares of land destroyed by wildfire. And in fire seasons going back as far as records are kept, human-caused fires are the main reason the forests burn. 

And again this year, as more people head into the back-country, trading snowmobiles for ATVs to enjoy the Great Outdoors, Alberta Wildfire officials are starting their seasonal cautions. 

The April to May time-frame is historically the most active for wildfire occurrences. This year, however the fire statistics are showing a significantly slower start than last year. As this article is being written on April 10, there are only 17 fires reported in the province since the start of the year, and only 11 active fires burning in the province following the Easter weekend. Most of the fires are hot-spots being monitored from hold-over fires that were under control at the end of last season. One of those holdover fires in the current list is the only fire reported in the Lac La Biche Forest area; it's up in a remote area about 200 kilometres northwest of Lac La Biche.

Growing as we speak

Oops. Hold on for a sec.  Perhaps we spoke too soon. According to the real-time information on the Alberta Wildfire website, there are now two wildfires being monitored within the Lac La Biche Forest to start the current week — the other was added just after the sentence two paragraphs above this one was finished. That new fire is burning near the Janvier community south of Fort McMurray. The new fire brings the current active fires in the province to 13 … But wait, you might say — if we had 11, and now there's one more at Janvier, isn't that 12?  That would be correct, but another new fire in the Whitecourt area was added to the Alberta Wildfire status update as we were writing about the Janiver one.

They can happen that quickly.

Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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