Part of Agri-News

Caution when winter burning

Spring wildfires can result from smouldering winter burns.

See event listings and more articles in this edition of Agri-News: January 24, 2022 issue

‘Wildfire danger is based on a number of factors and the moisture content of fine fuels like leaf litter, needles and small twigs can play an important part,’ says Erin Davidson, provincial information officer with the Alberta government.

‘Large amounts of snow and below average temperatures in the winter do not necessarily mean a slower start to the wildfire season. The wildfire hazard in Alberta is largely dependent upon the spring precipitation received particularly through the end of late March to the end of May.’

At this time of year, industry and landowners often take advantage of the cooler weather to burn debris and brush on their land. However, landowners need to be careful that their actions do not start a wildfire.

The majority of wildfires are started by humans. Alberta Wildfire urges anyone doing winter burning to ensure their piles have been fully extinguished.

‘If fires are not properly put out, they can spread and burn underground, even under the snow and ice, all winter. Under the right conditions, these fires can re-emerge in the spring as wildfires,’ says Davidson.

Following safe burning practices during this period will help prevent holdover fires that can start spring wildfires. Although snow helps reduce the risk of the fire burning into the ground, it is  recommended that landowners regularly revisit all fall and winter burn sites to ensure the fire is out.

‘Walk the burn area and roll over any debris to check for hot spots. The best way to find hotspots is to look for visible signs of burning such as melting snow around the edges. Touch the burn area with your hands and smell for smoke.’

Things to consider when burning this winter:

  • Ensure you have proper tools at the burn site such as an axe, shovels and at least 200 litres of water.
  • Be aware of forecasted wind conditions. Wind can pick up sparks or embers and start a wildfire if the conditions are right.
  • As with any burning, do not attempt to burn more than you can control.
  • Actively manage burn projects to reduce disposal time and smoke impacts. Continually re-pile if needed.
  • Consult local municipalities or the Alberta government on how to mitigate impacts when undertaking larger winter burning projects near communities or roadways.
  • Fire permits are required during wildfire season, which is March 1 to October 31. All burn piles must be fully extinguished before the start of wildfire season.

For questions about proper burning procedures, visit the Alberta Wildfire website or phone 310-0000.

If you see smoke in the forest, report wildfires by calling 310-FIRE (3473).


For more information, contact the Provincial Information Officer:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
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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