Fire ban to end in parts of Alberta as progress continues on wildfires
Provincial officials say the wildfire response will continue to be a marathon, but more evacuees are being allowed to return home and fire bans are set to change in some regions.
Fire bans that have been in place for weeks across most of the province will be replaced with a fire restriction, which comes into effect at 10 a.m. MT Friday. That means wood campfires are allowed in designated campgrounds and on private property, like backyard fire pits.
Under the fire restriction, all outdoor wood fires are still banned on public lands, including backcountry and some camping areas.
Alberta Wildfire information unit manager Christie Tucker said that because the northern portion of the province received less rain recently and the fire danger is still high, a fire ban and off-highway vehicle restriction is still in place in the High Level and Fort McMurray forest areas. It also remains in effect for Yellowhead County, where there are still active wildfires.
"We're taking a cautious approach to prevent as many wildfires as possible," Tucker said at a news conference Thursday.
"But as long as it's safe to do so, we want Albertans to be able to enjoy the outdoors."
She added humidity and temperature monitoring are factors in the decisions around lifting fire bans.
Recent cooler weather has helped firefighters contain some of the wildfire danger.
"Firefighters have been able to cut more fire guard, reinforce containment lines and put in the work on the ground to bring these wildfires under control," Tucker said.
There are seven wildfire evacuation orders still in place, but orders are now being lifted for the Sturgeon Lake area, East Prairie Métis Settlement and Peavine Métis Settlement.
More than 5,300 people remain under evacuation orders — almost 2,000 less than the previous day.
As of Thursday afternoon, are 55 wildfires in the forest protection area of Alberta, and 16 of those are out of control, Tucker said.
More than one million hectares have burned in the province so far this year.
A special air quality statement caused by smoke remains in effect for only a portion of northern Alberta.