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Last year, members of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta passed a resolution calling for government to amend necessary legislation so municipalities within the Forest Protection Area (FPA) of Alberta can make their own decisions about fire control orders in hamlets within their boundaries.
These rural communities want more ability to make fire ban-related decisions within their own borders, instead of having blanket restrictions forced on them.
While the FPA-wide fire ban and off-highway vehicles (OHV) restriction at the start of the 2020 wildfire season helped us limit the number of human-caused wildfires needing to be fought at the start of a pandemic, these extraordinary circumstances should not become the norm.
Despite our prevention efforts, 88% of wildfires last season were still human-caused, so we want to take the time to get this right and to ensure Albertans are aware of the causes of the majority of Alberta’s wildfires. It’s our duty to limit preventable wildfires, while also limiting the restrictions on responsible Albertans enjoying the great outdoors.
2021 wildfire season
We’re taking immediate steps to lessen the limitations being placed on hamlets within the Forest Protection Area of Alberta.
Fire restrictions, fire bans and OHV restrictions have proven to be effective prevention tools in reducing the number of human-caused wildfires, though the most restrictive option isn’t always the most appropriate.
We’re committed to quick improvements to the system:
- We’re beefing up our communications so we can be crystal clear with Albertans about which activities are and aren’t allowed during a fire ban or restriction.
- Whenever possible, and based on local fire risk, we will choose a fire restriction instead of a fire ban. The more restrictive fire ban will be reserved for the more serious situations when we have prolonged hot and dry conditions.
- We will keep any fire restrictions or bans based as locally as possible, to avoid limiting activities in lower risk areas.
- Before implementing a fire control order such as a fire restriction, ban or OHV restriction, we will continue to work closely with our municipal partners to ensure they are aware of the current wildfire conditions in their area and when we need to move to a more restrictive approach.
2022 and beyond
We want our communities to know that these immediate steps won’t get in the way of us exploring a true, long-term solution.
My team at Agriculture and Forestry is also working with other relevant departments to explore potential legislative changes that will empower local authorities inside the Forest Protection Area to make decisions regarding the fire ban system within the borders of their hamlets.
Together, we can all do our part to limit the number of human-caused wildfires so that we can continue enjoying Alberta’s beautiful forests in those precious summer months.
Devin Dreeshen served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry from April 30, 2019 to November 5, 2021.