02/06/2013 07:15 EST | Updated 04/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Alberta's Wildfire Season To Begin Early, Crews To Start Work March 1

EDMONTON - Alberta is bracing for another early forest-fire season by readying crews in advance.

Like last year, wildfire crews will be on duty starting March 1 instead of April 1.

Starting the season early when conditions are dry was a recommendation in the review into the May 2011 wildfires that ravaged the Slave Lake area.

The flames destroyed hundreds of homes, forced thousands from the community and caused an estimated $1 billion in damage, firefighting and relief costs.

Wildfires last year in Alberta burned 3,750 square kilometres of timber — about 1.5 times more than the five-year average.

Alberta Environment says last year nearly 80 per cent of wildfires were caused by people, compared to the usual average of about 60 per cent.

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