Another busy wildfire season wrapped up in Alberta on October 31. Last year’s mild winter left many areas of the province with little or no moisture, triggering an early start to a season that saw 1,555 wildfires – 400 more than last year.
Mother Nature didn’t help as dry conditions continued throughout summer. In June, a lightning-caused wildfire in northern Alberta grew to over 134,000 hectares, threatening the community of Zama City and forcing more than 300 residents to evacuate. Fortunately, firefighters were able to quickly mobilize heavy equipment to contain the flames and protect the community thanks to a FireSmart plan completed by the community in 2009.
This fire – the largest of the season – still burns today. Despite cooling temperatures, embers can burn underground for months, re-surfacing in the spring as a wildfire. Crews will keep working until all hot spots are extinguished.
Keep your community FireSmart
We are committed to protecting people and property from wildfire – one way to do this is by empowering ourselves through the FireSmart program. The government will soon announce the allocation of $500,000 in FireSmart grants for projects that reduce the threat of wildfire to Alberta communities.
If you live in a community in the Forest Protection Area, I encourage you to ask your municipal leaders to apply for FireSmart Community Grant funding next year. There are also FireSmart tips and techniques you can use to protect your home and community.
2012 wildfire season statistics
About 70 per cent of this year’s wildfires were human-caused, meaning they were preventable. With over 300 communities in the Forest Protection Area, we are reminded of the responsibility we all share to be good stewards of our forests.
- 1,555 wildfires
- 377,355.37 hectares burned (five times the size of Calgary)
- 70% were human caused
- 28% were lightning caused
- 2% are still under investigation
To ensure firefighting resources are available where they’re needed most, Alberta has resource-sharing agreements in place with other jurisdictions across North America, including the state of Jalisco, in Mexico. This year:
- 184 firefighters were sent to British Columbia, North West Territories, Yukon, Ontario, Quebec, Montana and Idaho; and
- 175 firefighters were brought in to the province from, Ontario, New Brunswick, Yukon, Alaska and Jalisco, Mexico.
Albertans are reminded to continue using caution to prevent wildfires – even over winter. Keep campfires and debris burns small, and always have firefighting equipment on hand.