A wide swath of southern Alberta is now under fire bans despite a slow and wet start to the season, while air quality in some parts of the province is being degraded due to smoke from wildfires in B.C.
As of Friday afternoon, parts of Alberta that are currently under a fire ban include:
- Calgary Forest Area.
- City of Lethbridge.
- Foothills County.
- Lethbridge County.
- Municipality of Crowsnest Past.
- Village of Stirling.
- Vulcan County.
- Waterton Lakes National Park.
Only 800 hectares of forest have burned in Alberta after a damp spring, while the five-year average is 350,000 hectares burned per fire season, provincial wildfire information officer Travis Fairweather told CBC News.
But recent hot and dry weather could lead to an increase in fire activity.
“In the spring, we did see a lot of wet weather; we didn’t see a lot of these hot and dry days that we’re seeing now. We did miss a lot of those early fires that we might have otherwise seen,” Fairweather said.
Two fires in northern Alberta are being held, near Slave Lake and Lac La Biche, which means that with current weather conditions and resources, the wildfires are not anticipated to grow past expected boundaries.
Fires near Peace River, High Level and Fort McMurray are listed as under contol by Alberta Wildfire — a designation that means they are completely contained and will be extinguished.
To keep the numbers low, Fairweather is urging people to be careful with their campfires or while riding off-road vehicles.
“August is when we start to see lightning fires — and certainly with the hot and dry weather that we’re seeing across the province, [low fire numbers] could change over the course of a couple days or even weeks.”
B.C. fires impact Calgary air quality
The fire ban across southern Alberta comes after wildfires continue to burn and threaten homes in the B.C. interior, and eventually bumped the air quality health index in Calgary to four — or moderate risk — on Thursday.
The Christie Mountain wildfire broke out Tuesday on the east side of Skaha Lake, southeast of Penticton, B.C., and grew from 250 hectares to about 10 square kilometres in just a few hours.
By Thursday, it had covered an estimated 2,000 hectares — that’s five times the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park — and destroyed one home and prompted the evacuation of 319 nearby properties.
The Regional District of East Kootenay also issued an evacuation order Wednesday for properties in the Findlay Creek area to the west of Canal Flats in the southeastern corner of B.C.