Alberta’s current wildfire season is slightly below average, and the province is now past its critical green period in May, which has seen some of the largest fires historically.
As of Sunday, there are 13 active wildfires in the forest protection area, six of which are classified as detained and seven under control.
“None of them are currently considered significant wildfires, so we are confident we have them under control and they will be extinguished in due course,” wildfire information officer Josee St-Onge said.
The total of 426 wildfires is slightly below the five-year average, she said.
“We’re right about what to expect in a normal wildfire season,” she said. “We have burned down about 13,000 hectares of forest so far. It’s more than last year at this time of year, but it’s much less than our five-year average, including years where we had massive wildfires by then.”
The largest forest fire to burn down to date is 8,300 hectares, but it is located in a very isolated area, in the northwest of the province at a high level, with no risk to infrastructure.
“We manage it, but let it burn, so that’s why it got so big,” St-Onge said. “But we still view that as a fire being held, so there’s no worry that it will escape beyond the established limits we have for it.”
Another wildfire north of Rocky Mountain House sparked an evacuation earlier this month. That forest fire was 12.7 hectares and has now been extinguished.
In the past five years, Alberta’s biggest wildfires have struck in May, meaning the province is now past what’s considered a “critical period” when it’s very dry and leaves don’t start to turn green.
“We have now passed that point, so that critical time is behind us, but of course there is still a lot of summer left,” she said.
However, the province expects an average summer, with near or slightly above normal temperatures and normal rainfall for June and July. But some insulated bags can still stay very dry.
“For example, at the moment, while we have had some rain that has lowered the fire hazard in southern Alberta and along the Rocky Mountains, there is still a very high fire hazard in the northeast corner of the boreal forest, the areas of Fort McMurray -Lac La Biche just because they haven’t had much rain in the last few weeks,’ said St-Onge.
“It only takes one long period of dry and warm weather to rapidly increase the fire risk in the province. So we still urge everyone to be careful when spending time in the woods.”