NEWS

Alberta Wildfires: Fire Ban Imposed Amid Increased Threat

05/14/2012 08:48 EDT | Updated 07/14/2012 05:12 EDT
EDMONTON - The wildfire threat in Alberta is so volatile the province has imposed a sweeping fire ban to reduce the threat.

The ban applies to all forested areas from near the U.S. border north along the Rocky Mountain foothills to the Town of Manning in the northwest, and east to the Fort McMurray area.

All fire permits issued for this sprawling region are suspended until further notice.

Crews are working around the clock to contain three out-of-control wildfires in Alberta.

The fires are burning near Grassland north of Edmonton, near Bonnyville northeast of Edmonton and near Lodgepole southwest of the capital.

Meanwhile, the wildfire threat is extreme in the Slave Lake area and ranges from high to very-high in other regions of northern Alberta.

There was one fire being held in the province and 14 fires were considered to be under control, including one near Slave Lake and one near Grande Prairie.

"The wildfire situation in most of Alberta is serious," Diana McQueen, minister of sustainable resource development said Monday.

"Most of the fires we are fighting right now appear to be human-caused and therefore were 100 per cent preventable."

The fire ban was issued the day before the Town of Slave Lake was to officially mark the one year anniversary of the wildfires that tore through the community, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands of people to flee to safety.

Damage from that fire is estimated to be close to $1 billion.

Along with the fire ban, Alberta is urging users of all terrain vehicles such as ATVs to be extra careful, noting that debris and brush can get lodged near the engine and exhaust of machines and then fall to the ground, sparking fires.

Fire forecasters were hoping for winds to decrease Tuesday morning, but noted crews will still face warm temperatures and low humidity.

"It is so dry and windy in many places that fires can start and spread very quickly," McQueen said.

Alberta's forests north of Edmonton are extremely dry this spring after less than half the usual amount of snow fell on the region over the winter.

Since the beginning of April, Alberta crews have responded to more than 270 wildfires.