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Parks Canada preparing for wildfire season

March 29, 2022 
By Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative ReporterJasper Fitzhugh

Mar. 29 – Parks Canada has begun preparing for another wildfire season in Jasper through risk reduction work and reminders to the public about fire safety.

Wildfire season runs in Alberta from March 1 to Oct. 31.

Kevin Gedling, partnering and engagement officer with Jasper National Park, said in an email that Jasper has a small handful of spring ignitions each year, with two human-caused fires that occurred during the spring of 2021.

“Dry grass conditions particularly along the travel corridors are susceptible to spring wildfires and our fire crews and fire management resources are always prepared to respond to spring fires,” Gedling said.

“Parks Canada usually looks to the spring and fall shoulder seasons as opportune times to conduct prescribed fires—if conditions are right and the landscape and climate conditions are within prescription for a chosen fire site. In recent years, Henry House near the Jasper Airstrip would be good examples of spring season prescribed fires.”

Gedling explained how wildfires are a natural and frequent part of mountain national parks, while the use of fire for visitor experiences is carefully managed.

“Unlike other jurisdictions, where open fires on public land are sometimes permissible, Parks Canada does not allow random fires anywhere in Jasper National Park at any time,” he said.

“Visitors are asked to only use designated fireboxes or fire rings when camping or using a day-use area. Visitors are also made aware of heightened fire conditions through Parks Canada fire information updates. When conditions are too dry or hazardous, fire bans may be put in place in certain areas or across the entire park.”

Campfires must be attended at all times and are only allowed in fire pits or boxes provided by Parks Canada.

They must also be completely extinguished with water—soak it, stir it and soak it again until it is cool to the touch before leaving it.

Parks Canada also warns against throwing cigarettes on the ground and instead asks users to put them out and discard them in a bin.

In Jasper National Park, a fire permit is essentially an add-on service provided to campers in certain campgrounds—a fee for service when visitors choose to have a campfire at their designated campsite.

“Included in the camping fee for a fire permit is the ability to access centralized supplies of firewood provided by Parks Canada,” Gedling said.

“We ask campers to take only what they need and to be conservative with their campfires.”

In 2021, there were 13 forest fires in Jasper National Park.

Gedling noted two were prescribed fires and 11 were wildfires.

Two of the wildfires were attributed to naturally occurring lightning, and two were illegal fires that required crew suppression.

“The remaining were on the road side or near other travel corridors and are suspected to be caused by humans—railway, cigarettes or large parts of brake pads starting dry grass,” Gedling said.

Risk reduction work

Parks Canada extended its wildfire risk reduction work to the Keith Lakes area on March 2, starting a new fireguard along the base of Signal Mountain.

The site is at kilometre seven on the south side of Maligne Lake Road, after the Fifth Bridge turnoff to Maligne Canyon and near the Skyline Trail trailhead on Signal Mountain.

Crews are working each day, past daylight hours, and will selectively remove dead pine trees killed by mountain pine beetle while protecting trees such as Douglas-fir and aspen.

There will be a minimal number of traffic disruptions on Maligne Road and limited to periods of single lane alternating traffic or short two-way closures.

An increase in industrial traffic will occur during periods of log hauling.

Motorists are reminded to respect traffic control personnel and obey all posted road signs and reduced speed zones.

Sections of trails 7 and 7i will be temporarily closed.

The project will continue until March 31, as long as the ground remains frozen.

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