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Soaring temperatures trigger fire ban across Alberta’s forest protection area

Due to increasing wildfire danger and many active wildfires across the province, Alberta’s government has implemented a fire ban for the entire forest protection area.

The ban went into effect Wednesday at 4 p.m., as hot and dry conditions have led to 137 new wildfire starts since July 1 and heightened the wildfire danger throughout the province.

The forest protection area runs along the foothills and Rocky Mountains, and all of northern Alberta’s boreal forest. It encompasses rural areas around the communities of Edson, Grande Prairie, High Level, Fort McMurray, Peace River, Slave Lake and Whitecourt.

“The fire danger in the province is extreme in the northern parts of the province,” Alberta Wildfire information officer Melissa Story said on Wednesday. “We are seeing a little reprieve in the Slave Lake forest area, but otherwise it is extreme across the province.”

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“Since (Tuesday) at 10 a.m., we have burned almost doubled the amount of hectares that we had on record since Jan. 1.”

Story said a storm last weekend ignited several wildfires and that trend may continue.

“The conditions are there for wildfires to start easily and spread quickly. We are going to see more lightning throughout the province in the coming days, so we are getting prepared for more wildfire starts,” she said.

The province said cities, towns, villages and summer villages, as well as federal lands like national parks, are exempt, but have the authority to issue their own bans and may have complementary bans already in place. For example, Parkland County upgraded its fire advisory to a ban on Wednesday. (To see the latest, visit the Alberta Fire Bans website.)

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Jasper National Park and the Jasper townsite also announced Wednesday afternoon a fire ban will come into effect on Friday, July 12th, saying the measure aims to prevent human-caused wildfires.

All fire permits issued by the province are now suspended or cancelled, the government said, adding no new permits will be issued while the ban is in place.

Certain allowances can be made for essential agricultural or industrial burning, but only when approved by a forest officer.

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Under the ban, all outdoor wood fires, including wood campfires on public land, private land, designated campgrounds and backyard firepits, are prohibited in the forest protection area.

In addition to the restrictions, the province said Albertans can’t use charcoal briquette barbeques, fireworks or exploding targets.

People can still use propane- and natural gas-powered appliances and indoor wood fires inside a structure, such as a building, tent or RV, that are contained within a device with a chimney and spark arrestor.

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: New guide for dealing with the health risks from wildfire smoke'

Health Matters: New guide for dealing with the health risks from wildfire smoke

The province said it is crucial that Albertans avoid any activities that fall under this ban to prevent new wildfires from breaking out.

“Alberta has been experiencing difficult conditions in recent days, and the risk of new wildfire starts is extremely high throughout the province,” Todd Loewen, minister of Forestry and Parks, said in a statement.

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“Now, more than ever, Albertans must work together to protect our communities and forests by remaining vigilant, spending time outdoors responsibly and avoiding activities that can cause a wildfire.”

The ban comes during a week when much of the province is under an extreme heat warning and temperatures in the mid-30s are breaking records.

Environment Canada said temperatures could reach as high as 37 C. Cooler temperatures will begin to move into northwestern regions of the province on Thursday, while parts of central and southern Alberta will moderate on Friday.

On Wednesday, about 700 people who live in Garden River were ordered to evacuate because a wildfire was threatening the only road in and out of the remote northern community.

For the latest information on which areas in Alberta are under an evacuation alert or order due to a wildfire, visit the Alberta Emergency Alert website.

For the latest information on the wildfire status and danger across the province, visit the Alberta Wildfire website.

The latest information on fire advisories, restrictions and bans across the province can be found on the Alberta fire bans website.

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