It’s still winter in Fort McMurray, but the province isn’t taking any chances when it comes to wildfire season.
The official start of the wildfire season is today, March 1st, for the fourth-straight year. Permits are now required for all burns besides campfires, and they can be obtained from your closest Agriculture and Forestry office.
The shift of the start of the season from April to March happened after the 2011 fire that devastated Slave Lake. The earlier date allows fire departments more time to mobilize their resources and get them ready for a potentially busy season.
People are being asked to check their fall and winter burn sites to make sure they are completely out. The Department of Agriculture and Forestry suggests prodding the area with a metal pole to feel for heat. They say underground fires can be very difficult to put out come spring.
Campers, snowmobilers, and ice-fishers are also being asked to make sure their fires are put out. Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean the fire will extinguish itself.
Wildfires in 2015 burnt 492,000 hectares of land, with 60% of fires being caused by humans.