After the devastation of last year in Fort McMurray, fire officials in Alberta are hoping this year's wildfire season won't be seared into people's memories.
March 1st is the official start of wildfire season in the province, and Albertans are being reminded to be extra careful when in the forested region.
Oneil Carlier, Alberta's Minister of Agriculture and Forestry says nearly 70 per cent of wild fires last year were caused by human activity. "And that makes them 100 per cent preventable," Carlier insists.
The Forest and Prairie Protection Act was brought into effect last fall. Carlier says, "Even though we've moved the wildfire season ahead to March 1st for the last five years, this act did it officially. That extra month gives our crews a chance to get their equipment ready to get their recruitment ready so they're ready to hit the ground running when the fires start."
Last year 1,338 wildfires burned over 611,000 acres of the province, which included the Horse River wildfire that spread into Fort McMurray. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates the total cost of that fire will reach $3.58 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history. The fire forced 80,000 people from their homes.
Carlier is hoping for a much quieter season in 2017. "Some parts of the province haven't had a lot of snow, so we're hoping for some more snow, perhaps a wet spring so we don't have those tinder dry conditions we had last year."
To be safe when camping in forested areas, always make sure your campfire is completely out before leaving it - soak it, stir it and then stir it again. If you spot a wildfire anywhere in the province, call 310-FIRE (3473).
With the start of fire season, fire permits will be required for any burning, outside of campfires, in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta.
The town of Cochrane borders one of those forested regions, the M.D. of Bighorn. Many southern Albertans head to Kananaskis Country to enjoy some of the great camping spots every year.
You can download the Alberta wildfire mobile app for Android or Apple devices.
To learn more about what you can do to prevent wildfires, click here.