Wildfire Prevention

April 22nd, 2024

The birds are singing, and the trees are just shy from budding new leaves—spring is here! Because Mother Nature graciously gave us a very warm winter with little snow, Alberta already has wildfires and warnings throughout the province.

As I write this, there are currently 50 active wildfires in Alberta and over 60% of those fires are caused by people using fireworks, riding ATVs, burning debris, having an unattended campfire, or throwing lit cigarettes out their car windows. Did you know that if you start a wildfire, you can be charged, fined, or even held liable for the costs of putting that fire out? Don’t be that person!

Currently most of Alberta is under some form of a fire ban. Check alberta.ca/fire-bans for an update on all active fire bans in Alberta.

There are five different forms of fire ban:

  • Fire Advisory – which means that a fire danger rating has increased. Fire permits may be restricted, safe campfires are allowed in campgrounds, backcountry, or random camping areas, indoor wood fires are permitted, as well as propane, gas or charcoal barbecues.

  • Fire Restriction – which prohibits the use of wood campfires on public land but does allow campfires inside provincial campgrounds and private property as well as the use of gas, propane, or charcoal barbeques. Fire permits may be restricted, suspended, or cancelled. There would not be any new fire permits issued. 

  • Fire Ban – prohibits wood campfires on public land, campgrounds and private land including backyard fire pits. All fire permits would be suspended or cancelled. Gas and propane barbecues would be permitted but not charcoal and indoor wood fires would also be allowed.

  • Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Restrictions – these include, but are not limited to quads, side by sides, dirt bikes, jeeps, pick up trucks, sports utility vehicles and snowmobiles and would restrict the use on public land, including designed OHV trails.

  • Forest Closure – is when the fire danger is at an extreme level and the forest is closed with no access to the public. Access would only be granted by permit for those who specifically need a reason. 

Is there a way to help our province to reduce the wildfires? First and foremost, if you see a wildfire in an area call 310-FIRE (3473) or 911. 

  • Check for Fire Bans 

    • Be prepared in case of an evacuation.

    • Check for fire bans in the area you plan on visiting prior to leaving.

    • Know what each ban means.

  • Lit Cigarette Butts 

    • Do not throw lit cigarette butts out your car window! If starting wildfires isn’t a good enough reason, fines can be anywhere from $500 to $10,000!

  • Campfires 

    • Should be within a metal, brick, or rock fire ring that are on a non-combustible surface such as sand, gravel or rocks that is a minimum of one metre around the fire. 

    • Have enough water on hand to properly extinguish the fire. 

    • Always have at least one responsible person at the fire at all times. 

    • Do not leave the fire until it has been extinguished. 

  • Safe Burning of Brush Piles and Windrows 

    • Get a fire permit! The fire marshal or county for your area will be available to help and discuss your questions and what you need to know prior to burning brush and windrows.

    • Prepare the site by ensuring that trees and bushes are at least 25 metres away and a fireguard 15 metres wide and cleared down to the mineral soil must surround the area.

    • Windrows cannot be more than 60 metres in length with a minimum of 8 metre break between each windrow and parallel windrows must be separated by at least 15 metres.

    • Windrows and brush piles cannot be more than 6 metres wide.

    • To allow for a cleaner burn, ensure you reduce the amount of soil and dirt in your windrows and brush piles. Clean burning reduces smoke issues and smouldering fires. A smouldering fire can last for months and can emerge as a wildfire when the weather turns warm.

    • Never leave a burning brush pile or windrow unattended. 

    • Only burn what you are able to control.

    • Follow the conditions of your permit and have it on hand if questioned.

    • Watch for sparks and burning material that can cause smaller fires.

    • Check the weather! Don’t start burning if it’s going to be a windy day. And if you have started burning and wind speeds are over 15 km/hr immediately extinguish your fire.

    • Have the tools and equipment listed on your permit close by to put out any spot fires that may occur.

  • Burning Barrels

    • If using a burning barrel, use it later in the evening when the temperature is cooler and the wind calmer. 

    • Never leave it unattended.

    • Cover barrel with a 6mm or smaller metal screen to reduce the risk of flying sparks.

    • Position the barrel on exposed soil.

    • Keep the area clear of combustible materials by a minimum of 3 metres.

    • Never burn preserved wood, material from vehicles or tires, rubber, plastic, petroleum-based products such as Styrofoam, manure, pathological, asphalt shingles or material that is prohibited.

  • Off Highway Vehicles (OHV)

    • OHV exhaust systems can get hotter than 200° celsius and cause grass, muskeg, moss or other debris to heat up, smoulder, and ignite.

    • Before riding, clean out the hot spots and remove debris from your machine.

    • After riding through tall grass or muskeg remove any buildup.

    • Carry firefighting equipment such as a small shovel, pail, or even a fire extinguisher.

    • Wash your OHV and keep it clean, but DON’T wash it in creeks or streams!

    • Make sure your muffler and spark arrestor are in proper working order.

    • Take breaks frequently and knock off any debris especially on hot spots.

  • Campfires

    • When outside of a campground make sure sites are clear of dry grass, bushes, leaves, branches, tree trunks, peat moss, and overhanging branches.

    • Use the same campfire that previous campers used.

    • Build your campfire on level ground that is sheltered from the wind.

    • If you can’t build a fire by a water source, make sure a container of water is nearby.

    • Remember: SOAK IT. STIR IT. SOAK IT AGAIN.

    • Your fire is not out until it is cool to the touch.

    • Winter campfires can start a wildfire just as quick! Never assume the snow will put it out! SOAK IT. STIR IT. SOAK IT AGAIN until it is cool to the touch.

  • Fireworks and Exploding Targets

    • Fireworks within the Forest Protection Area are prohibited without written permission from a Forest Officer!

    • Check the fire ban is the area that you would like to use fireworks. Is it permitted? Do you require a permit or permission?

Let’s take care of our forests, the wild animals, small-town Alberta, our First Nations Communities, and our Agriculture community. This summer, let’s all take precautions to stop wildfires by doing our part to ensure the safety of our province.

The birds are singing, and the trees are just shy from budding new leaves—spring is here! Because Mother Nature graciously gave us a very warm winter with little snow, Alberta already has wildfires and warnings throughout the province.

© 2022 Northern Weldarc Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy