When we think of wildfires, we usually think of hazy, hot days in July and August. After all, that’s when we tend to see smoke in the air, and when you tend to see a lot of fire bans.
But most of Alberta’s wildfires tend to happen earlier in the season: last year, half of Alberta’s 1200 recorded wildfires started in May alone.
That’s why fire season now starts March 1st. And if you live in Alberta’s Forest Protection Area, that means that you must apply for a fire permit for any outdoor fires (except campfires) no matter how small, from today until October 31st.
In the moment, when all you want to do is burn a little brush, or capitalize on our first warm weather with a yard cleanup, getting a permit can seem like a pain and an easy to skip.
But your permit is not a rubber stamp – it’s a way of keeping us in the loop about your plans, so we can keep our resources where they should be.
Fire permits do three very important things:
- They let wildfire detection staff know where authorized fires are planned. Remember these folks? Well, one of the main things our wildfire observers are looking for is smoke. If they see smoke where there shouldn’t be fire, they’ll report it – which means our wildland firefighting crews will swing into action.
- They help us send our resources where they are needed – and avoid false alarms. We send our firefighting crews and resources to a potential wildfire site immediately – waiting to see if it’s a false alarm can cost precious time. Sending crews and airplanes to burn piles that don’t have permits ties up these resources – when they could be needed to fight real wildfires elsewhere.
- They help us notify you if conditions change. There are a variety of reasons why the fire hazard in your area might go up – and you might not notice them as they’re happening. If we have your permit info, we can notify you, so you can put out your fire – and avoid starting a bigger one.
Fire permits are free – to request one, just call your local Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Office. If you need the number, you can call 310-000 and someone from our Info Centre will connect you.
Keep in mind – under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act, if you burn without a permit and accidentally start a wildfire – or even if firefighters are sent to check your burn – you may be held responsible for the firefighting costs.
So why risk it? Get a permit. It’s fast, it’s free, and it will give you peace of mind.