Prescribed fire

Prescribed fires are planned, controlled fires in targeted areas to remove fuels that could contribute to wildfires.

Report a wildfire: If you see a wildfire in a forested area call 310-FIRE (3473)


Prescribed fires are the knowledgeable and controlled applications of fires on a specific area to accomplish planned and well-defined resource management objectives. These fires are applied under select weather conditions and managed in such a way as to minimize smoke and maximize the benefits to the site.

The provincial prescribed fire program is a proactive approach to wildfire and forest management. By removing fine fuels in open areas, prescribed fires help reduce the size and intensity of future wildfires that potentially threaten:

  • human life
  • communities
  • watershed and sensitive soils
  • natural resources
  • infrastructure

The Government of Alberta works with community partners and stakeholders to identify key areas for prescribed fire operations and works to achieve the shared objectives in a safe, efficient and mutually beneficial manner.

Prescribed fires are carefully selected by wildfire management staff. Fire has shaped Alberta’s forests for generations both through natural wildfire and traditional burning practices.

Current projects

Ribbon Creek Prescribed Fire

  • Overview

    A prescribed fire is planned for the Ribbon Creek drainage area in Kananaskis Country.

    The goals of the prescribed fire are to:

    • create a fuel break to help protect nearby communities and infrastructure from the threat of wildfire
    • restore and improve wildlife habitat for a variety of species
    • reduce human-wildlife conflict
    • reintroduce natural restoration benefits of wildfire to the area

    Smoke is a reality with any fire. Prescribed fires require a specific set of conditions to achieve the goals of the project. Daily operations will always consider atmospheric and smoke venting conditions and every effort is made to minimize smoke impacts.

    To reduce the impact on visitors and businesses in the area, project operations will pause on weekends and holidays.

    Map showing the location of the Ribbon Creek Prescribed Fire

    View the Ribbon Creek Prescribed Fire Fact Sheet

  • Benefits

    The Ribbon Creek Prescribed Fire will reintroduce wildfire in a controlled manner to help maintain, restore and protect the area’s recreation, tourism and ecological values. The last major wildfire in the Evan Thomas area was in 1936. Since then, there has been an accumulation of forest fuels leading to a very high risk of severe wildfire. This prescribed fire will establish a fire break in the area to help protect communities, resources and infrastructure in the immediate vicinity and may help prevent a potential wildfire from moving down the valley. It will also create an area from which firefighters can work should a wildfire occur in the area.

    Another benefit is the improvement of habitat for a variety of wildlife species. This project will have almost immediate benefit for bighorn sheep, bears, ungulates and other species. It will also improve human-wildlife coexistence in the valley by drawing wildlife species away from more populated areas where conflicts may occur.

  • Location

    The Ribbon Creek Prescribed Fire is located in the Ribbon Creek drainage in Kananaskis Country, south of the Nakiska Ski Area and west of Kananaskis Village within the Evan Thomas Provincial Recreation Area and Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park. The project size is approximately 8,000 hectares; however, it is being broken into several subunits. Our operations this year will focus on approximately 260 hectares. The area is comprised of spruce, lodgepole pine and grassland meadows.

    Photo of fire areas
  • Area closures

    The area immediately surrounding the prescribed fire will be closed to public access while operations are underway. Durations of closures will be kept to a minimum. This will impact hiking trails within the perimeter and any that are directly adjacent to prescribed fire operations. Roads and highways are expected to remain open. There may be short-term speed reductions.

    View trail reports and advisories before you head out.

  • Timeline

    Before any main unit ignition will take place, a suitable guard will be established. The guard establishment involves some cutting of vegetation as well as burning the tops of trees along the boundary and approximately 10 to 20 m into the prescribed fire unit. Ideal conditions for guard establishment are in early to mid-spring when the tops of the trees are snow free, but ample snow remains on the ground.

    Main unit ignition requires warmer and drier conditions. It is expected that the main unit operations would be underway in late summer into fall. If appropriate conditions present earlier in the summer, fire managers will take advantage of the opportunity and may begin main unit ignition. These operations would utilize a combination of ground and aerial ignition and will involve more personnel, equipment and aircraft.

Pelican Mountain Prescribed Fire

  • Overview

    During the wildfire season, Alberta Wildfire may be conducting one or more prescribed fires approximately 12.5 km southwest of Sandy Lake. The exact location of the prescribed fire area is directly north of Kilometre 123 on the C-Road.

    The prescribed fires will vary in size from 3 to 5 hectares and burning will take place when forecasted weather and on-the-ground conditions allow for a safe, controlled burn.

    Smoke may be visible at times but will be localized and short lived. Public roads and highways are expected to remain open. However, traffic may be controlled. Watch for prescribed fire in progress and smoke signage near the area.

    Learn more about the Pelican Mountain Research Site.

    Pelican Mountain prescribed fire: Slave Lake Forest Area

  • Restrictions and closures

    During operations, the area immediately adjacent to the prescribed fire will be closed to public access. Public roads and highways are expected to remain open however traffic may be controlled. Watch for prescribed fire in progress and smoke signage near the area.

  • Background

    Multiple prescribed fires are planned for this area and will occur over the next number of years. The purpose of these prescribed fires is to examine fire behaviour in various FireSmart treatments.

  • Research partners

    Special thanks to our research partners:

    • FireSmart Canada
    • FireSmart Alberta
    • Bigstone Cree Nation
    • Municipal District of Opportunity #17
    • Canadian Partnership for Wildland Fire Science
    • FPInnovations
    • McMaster University
    • University of Toronto
    • University of Alberta
    • University of British Columbia
    • University of Lethbridge
    • Alberta Pacific Forest Industries
    • Canadian Forest Service
    • Canada Wildfire
    • Los Alamos National Laboratory
    • U.S. Forest Service
    • Alberta Environment and Parks
    • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Project contact

    Leah Lovequist, Wildfire Information Officer
    Slave Lake Forest Area

    Phone: 780-849-0945
    Email: [email protected]