2020 just won't give Alberta a break. On Tuesday, April 14, Alberta's Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Devin Dreeshen told the public that Alberta's wildfire season will peak around late April and May. Since the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to peak in Alberta around mid-May, it just so happens that the two crises are projected to peak at the same time.
If you know a thing or two about Alberta, you'd know that wildfire season has become a regular follow-up to our harsh, unforgiving winters.
Now, with a contagious disease going around, a lot of people might have totally forgotten that forest fires are a thing and that high season is on the horizon.
Thankfully, the province is doing everything it can to prepare on this front. Devin Dreeshen said that he is implementing a number of measures to ensure that the Alberta is ready to handle the influx of forest fires.
"Alberta will be prepared to deal with the possibility of battling multiple disasters all at once," he said in the press conference.
He stated that 71% of the wildfires in 2019 were completely man-made and therefore preventable.
The province has shelled out out an additional $5 million investment to hire and train 200 new wildfire fighters. They'll be joining a staff that's over 1000 fighters already.
In addition, Alberta is issuing a temporary fire ban and a ban on recreational off-highway vehicle usage in Alberta's forest protection area. These measures will be effective as of Wednesday, April 15.
So if you were planning on setting up a campfire in the woods to toast up some marshmallows, you might want to hold off on those plans.
The fire ban will also be extended to provincial parks, in addition to the protected areas.
"Albertans have shown they are willing to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Dreeshen. Now he's asking them to do their part in preventing man-made wildfires in the province.
"We don't need the added burden of a human-caused wildfire this year," he added.
The smoky air caused by the wildfire is hard on everyone's lungs, and it could become all the more difficult for infected Albertans to breathe while battling COVID-19.
The province has set up a new Pandemic Response Planning Team to help manage multiple disasters at the same time. This unit will be cooperating with emergency management to make plans on how the province can act going forward.
Alberta's emergency management director, Shane Shriver, said that we are as ready as we can be for the upcoming disaster season. As Albertans, all we can do is follow the directions of public health officials.