Wildfires heat up province

We’ve made it successfully past the May Long Weekend — the supposed cut-off for the possibility of waking up with snow-covered tents.

We’ve made it successfully past the May Long Weekend — the supposed cut-off for the possibility of waking up with snow-covered tents. It’s now officially camping season and with that comes the responsibility of protecting the environment as we enjoy it through camping, quading, boating and other recreation activities.

The general philosophy for camping is to leave your campsite cleaner than when you arrived.

Along with this heightened emphasis on outdoor enjoyment also comes the added responsibility of preventing fires in the areas we are enjoying, like provincial parks or the backcountry.

On Monday, the Alberta Government implemented a province-wide fire ban in Forest Protection Areas (FPA), also known as government protected forested areas. This ban prohibits all open fires, like campfires, in campgrounds and random camping spots in the province.

The ban only applies to FPAs, as each municipality and provincial park can issue their own fire restrictions or ban and many have throughout the province.

Also on Monday, Lacombe County issued a fire advisory notice, stating the municipality will not issue any new fire permits, but will still allow existing permits to be carried out with extreme caution.

These advisories, restrictions or full-on bans come as weather conditions continue to be hot and dry, raising the wildfire hazard level to very high or extreme in most areas. According to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, as of Monday, 29 wildfires were burning throughout the province.

So far this year, Alberta has experienced 629 wildfires that have burned a total of 13,098 hectares.

Last week, we saw evidence of exactly how dry the conditions are when a passing train sparked multiple grass fires within the Town of Blackfalds and further on down the tracks towards Lacombe.

Fortunately, our emergency services crews were quickly dispatched on scene and along with many helping hands, were able to put out the grass fires as soon as possible.

Each day our area fire departments along with provincial wildfire fighters are putting their lives on the line to protect communities.

Last Friday, a wildfire pilot lost his life assisting firefighting operations while flying a water bomber near Cold Lake.

“First responders like this pilot, and our many other dedicated wildland fire fighters, put their lives on the line every day to ensure that our homes and families are safe,” said Premier Rachel Notley.  “We owe them our most sincere gratitude. Even as they mourn the loss of one of their own, I know they will continue fighting the many fires burning within our borders.

“In light of this tragedy, I remind all Albertans to respect the fire restrictions that are now in place to reduce the risk to our first responders and our communities.”

Let’s give them the recognition they deserve.

If you see a grassfire in the area, do not hesitate to call 911. To report a wildfire call 310-FIRE (3473).