‘Wildfire danger is based on a number of factors and the dryness of fine fuels like leaf litter, needles and small twigs can play an important part,’ says Melissa Story, provincial information officer with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
‘The moisture content of fine fuels can change quickly with wind and temperature changes, often within a matter of hours. If the lack of precipitation continues, and we have a hot windy spring, the wildfire danger could be significantly higher then normal.’
At this time of year, industry and landowners often take advantage of the cooler weather to burn debris and brush on their land. However, under current conditions landowners need to be extremely careful 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 Story.
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 check regularly 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 Alberta Agriculture and Forestry 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.
If you see smoke in the forest, report wildfires by calling 310-FIRE (3473).
For more information, contact the Provincial Information Officer:
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