by Morinville News Staff
Two hundred additional firefighters, a fire ban and off-highway vehicle (OHV) restrictions are part of Alberta Wildfire’s plan for this wildfire season as well as increasing fine violations and putting $20 million more into community FireSmart initiatives. The government says Alberta Parks is also instituting a fire ban in all provincial parks and protected areas.
The government says early preparedness measures will ensure Alberta can effectively focus resources where they are needed most in the event of multiple emergencies happening at the same time.
“Albertans are tough and we’re all doing what we can to keep each other safe during COVID-19,” said Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. With Alberta’s wildfire season matching with the expected peak of COVID-19, we have to take extra precautions to ensure our response efforts are well-funded and planned out. This spring, we may find ourselves facing multiple disasters at once. With all these measures, we will be prepared.”
Last year, Alberta saw more than a million acres burned with 71 per cent of the province’s wildfires caused by humans. Late April through the month of May is typically the highest hazard period for wildfires. The government says with provincial resources stretched due to COVID-19, preventative wildfire measures will better equip Alberta’s response to spring wildfires.
To that end, an additional $5 million investment will hire and train 200 firefighters to assist with the provincial wildfire suppression this season. In total, more than 800 seasonal firefighters will join 370 year-round staff at Alberta Wildfire.
The government will implement a fire ban in the Forest Protection Area, provincial parks and protected areas, as well as a recreational OHV ban on Crown land in the Forest Protection Area, starting April 15. All fire permits will be suspended in this area, and landowners are responsible for ensuring any holdover fires are extinguished by this time.
The government says the fire ban and OHV restriction are temporary measures that will stay in place only as long as required to combat the wildfire risk.
The government said Indigenous people may use OHVs on public land for traditional purposes. Use of OHVs on private lands, for industrial use and by emergency responders is also permitted.
Alberta is doubling fines from $300 to $600 for non-compliance with a fire ban and from $600 to $1,200 for non-compliance with an OHV restriction effective Apr. 15.
The government is also boosting FireSmart funding by up to $20 million to support vegetation management in the province. The department says it will work with municipalities to ensure these funds are used this fiscal year.
For more information on wildfires, download the Alberta Wildfire app. Up-to-date information on fire restrictions, fire bans, OHV restrictions and general wildfire information is available at albertafirebans.ca or by calling 1-866-FYI-FIRE (1-866-394-3473).