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Most new fires reported in Calgary Forest Area: Alberta Wildfire

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Wildfire officials keeping an eye on Alberta's forests say there's been an alarming number of fires, with most of them found in the Calgary Forest Area over the long weekend.

In an update on Thursday, officials say 33 new fires were recorded in Alberta between Friday and Monday.

Christie Tucker, information unit manager with Alberta Wildfire, says 26 of those were human-caused and all but one were in the Calgary Forest Area. Officials say all the fires were quickly extinguished by patrols.

"Obviously, Calgary and around Calgary is a popular place for people to go on the long weekend and there are a number of popular random camping sites – our staff know those areas well and that's part of their long weekend routine.

"There were more than 1,700 interactions with Albertans in the Calgary Forest Area."

Tucker says that work has to do with outreach and education about wildfires.

"Our staff also had hundreds of positive interactions with people who were out and about over the weekend. Our patrols visited popular recreation areas and random camping sites to share wildfire information and answer questions," said Tucker.

Forestry and Parks Minister Todd Loewen said all the fires were campfires that were left unattended, but posed a "huge risk" to become larger wildfires if they were ignored.

"Any of these starts are alarming, especially the ones that are human-caused, especially the ones that are out of carelessness."

According to the most recent report on wildfire danger in the Calgary Forest Area, the current rating is low.

"Green-up is well underway across the Forest Area, and widespread precipitation was registered in virtually all of our gauges," Alberta Wildfire said on its website.

Loewen said if conditions change and become drier, the risk of wildfire will increase.

"Favourable conditions and the efforts of our firefighters on the front lines do not reduce the need for continued care and diligence," he said.

"Human-caused wildfires could easily grow bigger and more dangerous than they have so far this year."

Alberta Wildfire suggests that anyone looking to head outdoors should consult albertafirebans.ca for current fire conditions and always be safe when you have a campfire.

"When you are leaving your site or headed to bed, your campfire must be fully extinguished. Soak it, stir it, soak it again to ensure it is out," officials said.

Off-highway vehicles can also cause wildfires and should always remain on trails when in the forest areas.

Fireworks and exploding targets are prohibited in Forest Protection Areas without written permission and anyone who uses these items is subject to a $600 fine.

"If you are found responsible for causing a wildfire you could also be held responsible for the costs associated with extinguishing that wildfire," Alberta Wildfire said.

Loewen says all human-caused wildfires are being investigated but most so far have been caused "by accident or negligence."

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