Wildfire season begins in exactly two weeks.
Last year, the provincial government updated its Forest and Prairie Protection Act, which included moving up the start of the wildfire season to March 1st, recognizing that recent trends show wildfires are beginning earlier in the spring.
“The wildfire that burned into Fort McMurray last year serves as a reminder of how important it is for us to be ready to respond to wildfires at a moment’s notice,” said Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
Last year 60 per cent of wildfires were human caused. In an effort to reduce this number, fines for burning activities without a permit will also increase at the beginning of March.
If anyone is caught engaging in behavior that could cause a wildfire, they will face a maximum fine of $100, 000, up from $5000. While the fine for corporations is $1 million.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Carlier says if you plan to burn in a forested area, besides a campfire, you will need a permit.
“What we don’t want happening is for us to have to send firefighters, equipment or aircraft out to an area where we see some burning, think it was a wildfire, when in fact, it was some burning someone was doing on their acreage.”
Meanwhile, Carlier notes it’s still too earlier to predict what the wildfire season will bring this year, as it depends on the spring rainfall.
He says the province is increasing the air tanker contract to 120 days. They came under fire last year after they reduced it to 93 days.
Last year, 1,338 wildfires burned more than 611,000 hectares, including the Horse River wildfire that spread into Fort McMurray.