Blustery winds and tinder dry conditions have created the perfect breeding ground for dozens of wildfires that have sparked across central and northern Alberta.
As of Saturday evening, the province's website listed 69 active fires that were sparked across the province within the last 24 hours. So far, all of the fires burning are under control, but that could change as winds continue to gust up to 70 km/h in some areas.
Leah Lovequist, a forestry information officer with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development's Lesser Slave region says, if we have a fast moving wildfire, our crews will have to be on their toes.
Meanwhile, two separate fires are burning in the Slave Lake region. According to Dana Hynes, Administrative Service Coordinator, Slave Lake, one is burning in the South Mitsou and Popular Lane area. An evacuation order was issued on Saturday. Fire crews were on site along with water bombers.
The second fire is south of Slave Lake. Again, fire crews and water bombers were on the scene Saturday.
We've got dry grass out there, and dry forest -- it will ignite quite easily, warns Lovequist.
When it comes to fighting the flames, safety is tantamount. ...we always fight the fires with the wind behind us. In these kind of conditions, we never directly attack the fires when it's this windy, unless the fire is very small.
According to Lovequist, the bone-dry and gusty conditions can cause grass fires to spread as fast as 68 metres per minute. And in those areas with extensive spruce trees, conditions can cause the flames to fan out at 48 metres per minute.
However, it may not be as bad as it seems. Geoffrey Drisco, wildfire information officer says the number of fires is lower than average for this time of year. So far this year, there has been 287 fires in Alberta, he said in an interview Saturday. Last year at this time, there were 442 wildfires.
A fire advisory is in effect for the Woodlands area. However, officials don't anticipate the flames will grow larger than its estimated size of 474 hectares.
Twelve counties are currently under a ban mainly because conditions are dry and windy, which can help spread the flames. On Wednesday, it took hours for crews to gain control of a fire, which affected nearly 40 hectares of land in Strathcona County.
Crews in Edmonton have already faced three wildfires and 16 grass fires since the start of May. But the city says this isn't unusual during the spring season.
Deputy Chief Ken Jones of Strathcona County Emergency Services wants residents to call 911 immediately after spotting a fire. Meanwhile, the city of Edmonton has opted not to impose a fire ban on residents, as this would prohibit outdoor flames.
However, a sudden change in weather conditions would force a ban into place. If a restriction is implemented, a person caught setting an outdoor fire could be fined up to $1,000 and may be held responsible for firefighting costs.
With files from The Toronto Sun