Alberta’s 2023 wildfire season was the province’s busiest on record, with the largest area ever burned.
Unusually hot, dry and windy spring weather led to an early and active wildfire season, with as many as 11 fires breaking out simultaneously due to lightning in early spring. Alberta Wildfire responded immediately to widespread and intense early wildfire activity across the province.
Due to the extreme nature of the wildfire season, 48 communities were affected and more than 38,000 Albertans were evacuated.
“Our province faced an unprecedented challenge this past wildfire season. Wildfire staff worked tirelessly to keep our forests and communities safe, showing strength and determination through their efforts. While this season was not without its difficulties, the way Albertans and industry leaders stepped up to support their neighbours was nothing short of inspiring.”Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks
While Oct. 31 marked the end of Alberta’s legislated wildfire season, the threat of wildfire persists in many areas of the province. Alberta Wildfire is prepared to respond to any new fires, but as this season demonstrated, all Albertans have a responsibility to prevent wildfires.
Albertans are urged to remain cautious as wildfires can start at any time of year under the right conditions.
Alberta’s 2023 wildfire season
In 2023, a total of 1,094 wildfires burned 2,214,957 hectares. Compared with the five-year average (2018-2022) of 1,110 wildfires burning more than 190,000 hectares, this year’s season was 10 times more severe in terms of area burnt.
Swift, responsive action by Alberta Wildfire staff slowed the spread of many large wildfires and additional resources were brought in from other agencies across Canada and other countries to aid the firefighting efforts.
In periods of lower intensity, the province was able to assist with firefighting efforts in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories while also supporting Parks Canada and the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.
Planning has already begun for next year’s wildfire season, including enhancing current and identifying new technologies or techniques that can be used effectively in Alberta.
Wildfire prevention, response and mitigation best practices are always evolving, and Alberta’s government is working to stay ahead of the curve. Alberta Wildfire constantly assesses the effectiveness of emerging technologies and new strategies to determine whether to incorporate new methods into its tool kit.
This past season, Alberta Wildfire incorporated various practices to allow longer hours of firefighting, including nighttime operations. Staff used night-vision technology and helicopters to better assess wildfires and support ground operations, as well as drones to detect hot spots on the landscape, allowing it to strategically position resources throughout the province. Alberta Wildfire also extended hours of operation to work on suppressing wildfires when they are traditionally less active.