What we can each do to prepare for this year’s wildfire season

In Alberta, wildfire season began nine days earlier this year, on February 20th — not a good sign. The mild winter and low snowfall have created drought-like conditions so fires can spark and flourish more easily.

What makes the upcoming wildfire season even more challenging are the high number of holdover or overwintering fires, the smouldering peat that continues to burn deep in the soil that started last year. The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre states that 53 active holdover fires are burning in Alberta and 94 in British Columbia.

From February 20th until October 31st, the provincial government requires fire permits for any burning, except campfires in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta . The Alberta Government also recently announced hiring another 100 wildland firefighters.

While governments at all levels play a big part in preventing and managing wildfires, any of us with a home and surrounding property can also do a lot.

FireSmart Alberta, part of FireSmart Canada, recently launched a new website with excellent resources and information on protecting homes and property from wildfires.

The organization has a checklist for homeowners. It includes being prepared to evacuate immediately, if required, and having an emergency kit already packed and knowing beforehand what systems to shut down in your home — air conditioning, home water, electricity, and gas, etc.

Check out this link on what should go into an emergency kit. The Alberta Government also has a video on putting together an emergency kit.

In the same checklist, there are tips on removing items that might ignite within a designated area around your home and checking vents on the roof, foundation, and exterior walls to prevent embers from entering a home.

FireSmart Alberta’s work goes beyond homeowners and includes the entire community, whether a local neighbourhood or a larger area, a town, or city.

At Vanderwell, we all hope a late-winter heavy snowfall might provide enough moisture and reduce the chance of a major wildfire in the Slave Lake area this spring. But that window is fast closing since spring is less than three weeks away.

Our best chance of managing wildfires and hopefully reducing their impact is if we all work together and do our part.

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