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Better safe than sorry with winter burning

After a dry wildfire season, smart winter burning practices can make a big difference in reducing the number of human-caused wildfires.

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See event listings and more articles in this edition of Agri-News: November 1, 2021 issue

While wildfire season officially ended October 31 and a fire permit is no longer required for burning inside the Forest Protection Area, it is important to keep safe burning practices top of mind.

Fires that are not properly extinguished can smoulder underground and re-ignite as a wildfire in the spring when conditions tend to be at their driest.

‘Fire safety matters year-round, even when there is snow on the ground,’ says Josee St-Onge, provincial information officer with Alberta Wildfire.

Winter burning can also cause dangerous driving conditions when smoke lingers in the air. On particularly cold winter days, such as during an inversion when cooler air is trapped at the ground under a layer of warmer air, smoke can stay close to the ground and travel great distances. The ideal conditions for burning are typically days with average temperatures and minimal wind.

When burning during winter:

  • Refrain from burning when an inversion is in place or is forecasted.
  • Consult local municipalities and authorities on how to mitigate impacts when undertaking larger winter burning projects near communities or roads.
  • Actively manage burn projects to reduce total burning time and smoke impacts.
  • Burn debris in stages so that you can adapt to changing weather conditions and reduce smoke.
  • Ensure good snow cover in the burn area (more than 15 cm).

‘Any burning should closely follow our guidelines,’ says St-Onge. ‘Check weather conditions and make sure you have the resources on hand to control the burn at all times.’

After the burn, make sure the fire is out – soak it, stir it, soak it again. It is safe when it’s cool to the touch, but you should go back and check your burn site regularly after the burn to make sure it is completely extinguished.

To report a wildfire any time of year, call 310-FIRE (3473).

If you come across smoky driving conditions, you can report smoky conditions to Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors by calling 780-644-1851 when it is safe to do so.


For more information, connect with the provincial information officer:

Phone: 780-420-1968
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]

For media inquiries about this article:
Phone: 780-422-1005

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