Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Wildfire danger high in Alberta, Calgary in a safer position

Dozens of wildfires are burning across Alberta districts at this time.

Alberta Emergency Management Agency and Alberta Wildfire officials updated the public on May 5, about the status of a hot start to the wildfire season in the province—one that required a rare recall of cabinet during an election.

On Friday, there were 78 wildfires across the province with 19 considered out of control, with 10 fires of note. The previous day there were three.

“So far this year, we’ve had 348 wildfires since January 1, and it’s burned more than 25,000 hectares of land,” said Christie Tucker, information unit manager, Alberta Wildfire.

“That’s significantly more wildfire activity for this time of year than we’ve certainly seen any time in the recent past.”

There is currently a fire ban in all forest protection areas across the province, including in the Calgary Forest Area. This ban also extends to the use of off-highway vehicles in those areas.

“This is a result of very high fire danger today. The safety of Albertans and their communities is our number one priority for Alberta Wildfire,” Tucker said.

Fire advisories have been issued by all of the counties surrounding Calgary, and the city of Airdrie. The province is updating all of the fire bans and advisories on the Alberta Fire Bans website at albertafirebans.ca.

Tucker said that the warm weather and extremely strong winds expected in parts of the province have led to ideal conditions for fires to start.

“Because of these conditions, the right conditions are ripe for a wildfire to start and spread very quickly,” she said.

“Our folks on the ground are going to have to be very careful about their own safety and of course the safety of the communities that they’re protecting.”

Wildfires at Fox Lake, Drayton Valley, and Rainbow Lake have led to evacuations and the destruction of buildings.

Calgary Fire Department says the danger is lessened within city limits

Calgary Fire Department Fire Marshal Glenn Baxter said that the department is continuously monitoring the situation within Calgary.

He said that changing conditions were reducing the risk of fire within the city.

“The past several days of warm weather has accelerated green-up while we await some significant moisture to support the transition from exposed dead vegetation to new growth,” Baxter said.

“Most areas of vegetation in the City of Calgary are maintained and do not experience significant accumulations of seasonal dried vegetation like the outlying areas or forest protection areas.”

Baxter said that overnight cooling and expected moisture over the coming days would further reduce the risk of grass fires in the city.

Environment Canada has forecast chances of showers occurring, and rain, starting on May 6.

Still, he said, the leading cause of grassfires within the city limits continues to be from smokers.

“The leading cause of grassfires is the careless disposal of smokers’ materials and the Calgary Fire Department wishes to remind everyone to safely dispose of all smoking materials and not to throw cigarettes out of vehicle windows or into vegetation, any potted plants or landscaping, peat moss, dried grasses, mulch, leaves, or other similar items,” Baxter said.

“Make sure to dispose of cigarettes in a metal container partially filled with sand or water. Empty your container regularly and soak ashes and butts with water before putting them in the garbage.”

Smith activates emergency cabinet

Premier Danielle Smith took the unusual step of activating the Emergency Management Cabinet Committee during an election, in response to the wildfire situation.

“To date, the Premier and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services, who serves as vice-chair of the committee, have been briefed by department officials on the state of the situation,” Smith said.

“Department officials will also provide daily technical briefings to the media and the public as Alberta’s government continues to respond to the evolving situation.”

Smith said that Rachel Notley, in her position as Leader of the Official Opposition, would also be kept informed of the situation.

“Cabinet continues to have decision-making abilities to deal with emergency decisions,” she said.