Controlled burns resume in Timberlea after fire bans halted program in Fort McMurray

October has been warmer than usual so trained teams led by Regional Emergency Services and Alberta Wildfire hope to finish the burns now.

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Firefighters are doing a controlled burn in the areas of Morgan Heights and Harp Heights to reduce wildfire risk in that section of Timberlea. The burns are expected to start Thursday. Smoke and flames may be visible during this time, but the municipality says there is no need for worry.

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This year’s burn program was paused in May when dry, hot and windy conditions caused a province-wide fire ban. October has been warmer than usual so trained teams led by Regional Emergency Services and Alberta Wildfire hope to finish the burns now.

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The burns create firebreaks that limit the spread of wildfires. They also promote biodiversity in the boreal forest. Turning dying plant life or invasive species into ash allows newer plants to grow.

Controlled burns are usually done in spring and have a narrow window. They are usually done before the weather gets hot and dry, but after the snow melts. Wind also determines when a burn can happen.

Dense, old forests and places like the Birchwood Trails are difficult places to carry out controlled burns. Instead, teams will go into these areas and trim, chop down and dig up some of the vegetation. Trees that are dead, dying or fallen will be carried out.

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Dense, old parts of the boreal forest that could fuel future wildfires are prioritized by the municipality’s FireSmart team.

Winter is spent planning for the upcoming forest fire season in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo area. It is also a time for a process called vegetation management.

Since January, there have been 60 wildfires in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo area. Alberta Wildfire says more than 3,643 square kilometres have been burned. More than 2,360 square kilometres of that land was around Fort Chipewyan and Fort Smith.

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