This year presented a fire season that Albertans won’t soon forget.
A hot May fuelled the flames and thousands of people were forced to flee their homes. Many have since returned to witness devastation.
The end of October marks the official end to the province’s wildfire season, but Mother Nature does not follow a calendar.
As of Monday afternoon, 87 wildfires were burning in Alberta with one still deemed out of control in the High Level Forest Area.
“It started back in June — it’s a pretty significant size,” said Melissa Story with Alberta Wildfire.
“I would anticipate seeing it on the board for quite some time to come and we are hoping to get it to the ‘being held’ status by the end of fire season.”
Story said if there are new fires that begin now, they are usually caused by humans. She said she wanted to remind people who are heading into the forest-protected areas to fully extinguish campfires and to be mindful of ATV use.
Alberta saw more land burn than ever before this fire season, with more than two-million hectares being scorched, an area that is about 31 times the size of Edmonton. The last record was set in 1981. At that time 1.3 million hectares burned.
Story said several wildfires reached more 200,000 hectares in size, and she expects many areas will see fires continue to burn deep underground all winter.
She noted the massive fire in Fort McMurray in 2016 took 13 months to burn out.
“We will continue to monitor them throughout the winter, we will scan them for infrared to make sure they are completely extinguished — to make sure there are no hot spots — and it will get classified as extinguished on our dashboard,” Story said.
She added that while this year was extreme, it is difficult to predict what the next fire season will bring.
“No two fire seasons are ever the same, so we are always reviewing them. We do an after-action review and see areas that we can improve on.”
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