Although it’s been awfully smoky and smelly this week, especially in Calgary, it’s still looking to be a beautiful May long weekend for Alberta residents. Temperatures are estimated to hover near 30 degrees Celsius in many parts of the province, with very little moisture in the forecast. This is in contrast to the often unpredictable weather we regularly see for the Victoria Day holiday, which is why so many are more thrilled than usual to be packing up their camping gear to head into the wilderness.
It’s extremely important to remember, however, that the province remains under a state of emergency and a fire ban has been implemented in all forest protected areas.
Forest protected areas include all protected areas in the province, such as provincial parks, wilderness areas, natural areas and ecological reserves. If you plan to camp in any sort of protected area (and most likely you will be), expect the fire ban to continue through the weekend. Due to the fact that hot, windy, and dry weather persists, several out-of-control wildfires are still burning and emergency crews have been stretched to the limit. It’s imperative Albertans do their utmost to prevent any further incidences requiring the assistance of emergency crews.
There are still plenty of opportunity to have fun, though, while also practicing care and attention. Here we take a look at the severe penalties for starting a wildfire, fines for violating a fire ban, and safe ways to camp and enjoy yourself even when there is a fire ban in place.
Penalties for starting a wildfire
The legislation involved in Alberta’s Forest and Prairie Protection Act enables the protection of the province’s forests and prairies from wildfire. The legislation does many things, such as enables fire control orders, sets maximum fine amounts for contravention of the law, provides fire prevention requirements and sets out offences and penalties.
Penalties for starting a wildfire on purpose are severe. “Individuals who knowingly contravene the act by starting a wildfire will be prosecuted in the courts and can now be fined up to $100,000 or imprisoned for up to two years. Industrial users who knowingly contravene the act and start a wildfire can be fined up to $1 million,” says the Government of Alberta.
Knowingly starting a fire in Alberta – in any way – is arson. There is no home insurance policy, or any kind of insurance policy, that will cover a person who has purposefully committed a crime, especially one that causes harm to others and property.
Having a fire underneath a fire ban
It can be oh-so-tempting to just start a “quick” fire to cook up some hot dogs or warm up at night. But, the problem is that no matter how closely you are watching the fire, sparks have a mind of their own. Sparks can travel some distance without extinguishing, and given the tinderbox-like conditions in Alberta right now, wherever they land is at risk of igniting.
The current fire ban includes the following restrictions:
- No wood campfires on public lands
- No wood campfires in designated campgrounds
- No wood campfires on private land
- No wood campfires in backyard fire pits
- Charcoal briquette barbecues are not allowed
- Fireworks and exploding targets are not allowed
Violation tickets can be issued for easily observable, straightforward non-compliance with fire bans. Examples of financial penalties include:
- Burning without having a permit on site — $360
- Leaving a campfire unattended — $600
- Failing to extinguish an outdoor fire during a fire restriction or ban — $600
- Using tracer, incendiary ammunition, fireworks, or exploding targets in a forested area — $600
- Failing to dispose of debris in accordance with the regulations — $600
- Operating an off-highway vehicle where it is prohibited by a fire ban or forest closure — $1,200
- Interfering with wildfire control operations — Court appearance
If you have any questions about fire bans in Alberta or require assistance, call 310-4455 for wildfire-related information at all hours. Translation services in more than 200 languages are available.
Safe ways to camp when there is a fire ban on
There are plenty of ways you can still get out and enjoy the great outdoors this long weekend, even when there is a fire ban in effect. Camping with a fire restriction in place is a bit of a different challenge, but can be equally as fun with some planning.
When there is a fire ban, the first thing people often think about is their ability to cook a meal. As mentioned, open wood fires and charcoal are not allowed, however propane grills are. The reason is that propane is easily extinguished.
There are lots of little propane barbecues on the market that will do nicely for your outdoor cooking needs. The best thing is that there are options that can be converted into a portable fire pit as well, making your camping experience the same as usual, but a whole lot more safe.
You can also choose not to cook at all. You can prep food ahead of time, keep thing cold in a cooler, and be good to go. Meals that do not require any sort of heat include wraps and sandwiches, salads, cold veggies and dip, charcuterie, and even cold pasta. Do some searching online and check out what will please both you and your family. You may even change your entire approach to camping and cooking!
Don’t forget to bring plenty of flashlights and lamps to make sure you can still get around your campsite in the dark.
Lane’s Insurance covers Alberta
The experienced insurance brokers at Lane’s are always here to help you navigate the often-confusing insurance world. We are a leading Alberta-based brokerage representing Calgary, Banff, Edmonton and greater Alberta. Our brokers work hard to find you the very best coverage at the lowest possible rates, and will always be available to answer all of your insurance-related questions.