Alberta Wildland Firefighting Adventures – So you wanna be a wildland firefighter, huh?

3F6A0528-2A new fire season always means new faces – eager new firefighters travelling to Hinton to learn all about wildfire. Well of course, these newbies need to be trained. Well, you could say the instructors at the Hinton Training Centre have their hands full and need a few old hands from around the province to mentor these newbies, set up labs, help with morning fitness and anything else that needs to be done – that’s where my 2015 fire season started.

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Alberta Wildland Firefighting Adventures – On the ground at the Lodgepole wildfire

Natalie_EWF-015-05-2710Day 1 –Tuesday, May 12

The morning started off normally with a crew run. We try to get in a solid hour fitness with the whole 20 pack every day. That afternoon we got dispatched to a 1.5 hectare fire near Wolf Creek in Edson that was burning in grass and some timber.

First on the scene was a rappel crew, who then turned it over to us – we were able to have that wildfire under control by the late evening. Sitting down for dinner at roughly 10 p.m., we were told that we were headed out tomorrow to the wildfire 8 kilometres north of Lodgepole, which was roughly 200 hectares at the time. Our orders were to have our bags packed for 15 days and to meet at the truck at 5:50 a.m.

Knowing little but expecting to be ready for anything – that’s the name of the game in fire.

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Alberta Wildland Firefighting Adventures – A rappel firefighter’s challenge

Jamie_SocialMedia_April2015-0628The Job Fighting wildfire is unlike any other experience. One day you could be sent to a massive campaign fire or to another province or country on an export – the next you could be sent on a search and rescue mission. I have fought wildfires that range in size from four hundred thousand hectares to ones the size of a campfire. Wildfires never act the same and therefore always pose a new challenge. In order to effectively fight these wildfires, we as firefighters need to be organized, efficient and knowledgeable. Continue reading

May long weekend: what to know before you go

It’s that time of year again; time to get out and enjoy what Alberta has to offer. So, before you head out this long weekend – or any time this summer – get the information you need from the Alberta government on fire bans, liquor bans, safe camping, and more.

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Alberta Wildland Firefighting Adventures – Meet the team

It’s Forest Week in Alberta! Our forests are filled with biodiversity, economic opportunity and adventure.  Protecting the beauty and majesty of our province’s 38 million hectares of forests and the life supported and protected within is neither an easy task nor for the faint of heart but it’s a challenge that wildland firefighters proudly take head on.

Facing difficult terrain and intense weather conditions on a daily basis, the job is not without risk but is also rewarding and exciting. This summer, three of our very own firefighters will be sharing their stories – blogging and posting to Alberta Wildfire social media. Meet Troy, Natalie and Jamie. Continue reading

A whole new meaning to schools of fish

Classroom pets are not out of the ordinary – but have you ever seen a class raise 65 rainbow trout, then release them into the wild?

That’s exactly what 37 lucky schools across Alberta are up to this year with the Fish in Schools: Raise to Release (FinS) program. Through the program, teachers and students – from Kindergarten to Grade 12 – have the chance to watch the trout life cycle unfold – right before their eyes! It’s a unique opportunity to watch trout grow and learn about how they adapt to changing environments.

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Twenty Strong

Community-based wildland firefighting crew in the Slave Lake area is gearing up for fire season.

Fire season started March 1, and not soon after, so did a Slave Lake wildland firefighting crew of 20. But they’re not just any group of firefighters – they’re all local to in and around the Slave Lake area.

The 2015 Slave Lake Aboriginal Wildland Firefighting Crew

Wildfire operations officer Kevin Parkinson started building the crew in 2013. He knew there were 12 Aboriginal communities in the Slave Lake area with many experienced firefighters and he planned to tap into that.

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Spring hazards: Have fun and stay safe during seasonal adventure

Rawson Lake Slide from SE corner_DuaneF

Watch for late-season slides at Rawson Lake and many other popular Kananaskis Country trails. Photo: Duane Fizor.

It may seem counter-intuitive to have to think about bears and avalanche at the same time while exploring the outdoors, but that’s the beauty of adventuring in the Canadian Rockies in spring. Snow can linger in the mountains late into the spring and early summer, but when it’s warm and sunny out, and everything is starting to melt, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security: summer is on its way, so we can forget about winter safety hazards, right? Unfortunately, no.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re out there before the snow goes:

Avalanche

Some of the most popular snowshoe and winter hiking trails in Kananaskis Country, even ones that are easily accessible from parking lots and highways, travel through or end in avalanche terrain. Our public safety staff in Kananaskis Region note that as snowshoeing becomes more popular, snowshoers are often venturing into avalanche risk without the proper gear or knowledge.

Check the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) ratings of the area you plan to hike or snowshoe (or ski), and note that anything rated as Simple terrain still has avalanche exposure risk. “The spring snow sport season in the Rockies runs from late March to early May, and very large ‘climax’ avalanches are more common during those months,” says Kananaskis Public Safety Specialist Jeremy Mackenzie, of avalanches that slide after a slow buildup over time. “These slides often reach the valley floor, with the potential to impact Simple terrain.”   Continue reading

Musselling out Aquatic Invasive Species in Alberta

When you think of Water Week, does the image of man and his best friend inspecting boats pop into mind? Probably not – however, celebrating Water Week isn’t just about conserving water; it’s also about keeping our water sources safe from invasive species.

The Alberta Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Program staff here at Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) is hard at work keeping Alberta’s waterways free of zebra and quagga mussels and they aren’t afraid to bring in extra bodies to help get the job done, even if those bodies have four legs and are covered in fur.

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Water logging – the life of a limnologist

At Alberta and Environment and Sustainable Resources, we love the opportunity to celebrate our environment. This week is National Water Week and as we reflect we wanted to highlight one of the amazing water-focused jobs we have right here in Alberta, the job of a limnologist.

What is a limnologist?

It’s a question that may not come up at most people’s dinner tables. A limnologist is a person who studies fresh, inland water including lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. The focus of their studies is generally water quality and the movement of water and aquatic life.

What does a limnologist do?

Monitoring water quality and health is the core work of a limnologist. They provide scientific and technical expertise in water quality management and often work closely with the Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils to help them move toward their water management plan.

Part of being a limnologist is striving to work with the Water for Life strategy which encompasses safe, secure drinking water, healthy aquatic ecosystems and reliable water quality supplies for a sustainable economy. They also work with approvals which involves reviewing Water Act applications.

How do they work with stakeholders?

The government has five regional limnologists throughout the province. Because water is a complex thing to manage, limnologists work closely with the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency, the Alberta Energy Regulator, hydrologists and groundwater specialists to make sure they have the best possible understanding of one of our province’s most precious resources.

According to one of the department limnologists, Jana Tondu, the best part of her job is, “The satisfaction of being able to protect something that is vital to all life.”

A limnologist is just one of the many people that are working to ensure a healthy, secure and sustainable water supply for Albertans. Please visit the Environment and Sustainable Resource Development website for more information on what government is doing for our water resources.