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Alberta, B.C. preparing for early start to wildfire season

Wildfire season has already begun in Alberta. (CTV News) Wildfire season has already begun in Alberta. (CTV News)
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LETHBRIDGE, ALTA -

Wildfires in Alberta and B.C. appear to be getting off to an early start this year.

Both province's wildfire services are doing what they can to prepare for what's expected to be a tough summer.

Wildfires have already forced some near Edmonton and Fort McMurray to evacuate. This year, there have been 198 wildfires across Alberta.

Experts say it won't be long before fires are seen further south in Alberta.

“We did have drought-like conditions over the winter months here in the province," said Melissa Story, an information officer with Alberta Wildfire.

"So we saw less snow than we typically would, so that led to an elevated fire danger. We did legislatively start the fire season early in the province on February 20 as opposed to our usual start on March 1."

It’s a similar story in B.C. where fires are already popping up in the Prince George and Cariboo fire zones.

The province is coming off its worst fire season ever with over 1.4 million hectares burnt.

“There's definitely quite a bit of concern heading into the 2024 fire season,” said Matt MacDonald, lead fire weather forecaster for the B.C. Wildfire Service.

"Over the past week, I think we've seen some really good examples of some early season fires that are digging in already in mid-April and already exhibiting some rather aggressive fire behaviours."

Provincial wildfire services aren't the only ones getting ready.

The Regional District of East Kootenay had to deal with several wildfires last year. They're starting prep work to deal with whatever comes their way.

“We do a lot of prep each year. We do it regardless of what the previous fire season was," said Christina Carbrey, protective services manager for the Regional District of East Kootenay.

"It's one of those things where you never know what you're going to get so we always need to be prepared. This fire season coming up certainly has the potential to be quite challenging but there's a tonne of variables in there."

Southern Alberta isn't out of the woods when it comes to wildfires either – dry weather and high risk have the region on high alert for grass fires.

“Make sure conditions are right if you're doing any burning. As soon as it gets windy a wildfire can start very easily and spread quickly,” said Story.

Some municipalities have already started declaring fire restrictions. Currently, Lethbridge has a fire advisory declared for the river valley.

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