Wildfires increase in number, but firefighters keeping up

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

As was to be expected with a string of heat waves, the number of wildfires in the Slave Lake Forest Area increased. Thankfully, most of these were small.

After a week of having a half dozen or more wildfires of note, on July 16, there were only two. A new wildfire SWF114 and one being allowed to burn naturally.

On July 16 at 11:11 a.m., Lovequist reported, “From July 9th to July 14th there have been 35 wildfires and all but one were caused by lightning. Firefighters have made good progress on fighting these wildfires. As of 10:30 a.m. today, 28 have been extinguished, six are under control and one is being allowed to burn naturally with continuous monitoring.”

SWF099 28 km is northeast of Chipewyan Lake which started in the afternoon of Monday, July 12. It is under an incident management team out of Fort McMurray Forest Area.

Lovequist says, “The size of SWF099 will continue to increase over the next few days. Since this wildfire occurs in a zone where it does not threaten communities or resources it is allowed to burn onto the landscape naturally under the watchful eye of experienced fire managers. Using this wildfire management strategy has many benefits; it re-introduces fire onto the landscape, creates a break in the continuous fuels, reduces the intensity of the fire providing safety zones for our firefighting crews to work from and reduces the cost of fighting these wildfires.”

The other wildfire on July 16 was SWF114. Lovequist said, “SWF114 located 39 kilometres southeast of Sandy Lake is classified as burning out of control and is 85 hectares in size. Last night, airtankers surrounded the wildfire with retardant and heavy equipment worked through the night to build fire guard. This morning water skimming airtankers and helicopters are bucketing on hotspots. There are 39 firefighters, four helicopters, four airtankers and various pieces of heavy equipment working to contain this wildfire.”

On July 11, there were two new wildfires. On July 12, there were nine new. However, at least one July 11 wildfire was being held. It was 35 km northeast of Peerless Lake and one hectare in size.

Being held means under the current weather conditions and resources, the wildfire is not anticipated to grow.

As the week progressed, there continued to be new wildfires each day. The older wildfires were being held, then under control.

However, by the end of the week, the number of new wildfires decreased. For example, on July 15, there were three new wildfires, but on July 16, there was only one.

There were three wildfires started by lighting on July 13. This is a tree burning in one of these wildfires (SWF103) taken by Whitecourt Unit Crew. Courtesy of Alberta Forestry and Agriculture.

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