Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s mandate is to protect Albertans, their communities and the environment from the threat of wildfire. The Forest and Prairie Protection Act and associated regulations are the primary wildfire based legislation and has a variety of responsibilities and authorities.
While the Act may apply across Alberta, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for wildfire activities (such as suppression and prevention) inside the Forest Protection Area (FPA), which can be described as the forested area of
Alberta. Outside of the FPA, cities, towns, villages, summer villages, counties and municipal districts are responsible for wildfire activities, but can always request assistance from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
The department relies on tools such as education, prevention, compliance, engineering and enforcement to ensure wildfires are prevented and mitigated.
Fire Guardians are appointed each year for the beginning of the fire season under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act to promote wildfire prevention in Alberta. One of their main functions is to issue fire permits in the
Forest Protection Area of Alberta. For a free permit, contact your local area office.
Forest Officers administer forestry and wildfire based compliance activities in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta. Forest Officers are appointed under the Forests Act and have the authority for wildfire and forest protection based
compliance activities. They may issue fire permits and use additional compliance tools, including fire control orders such as the Order to Remove or Reduce fire danger.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has a number of Forest Officers that are additionally appointed as Alberta Peace Officers and have the authority to take enforcement actions for wildfire and forest protection based compliance activities
including the issuance of violation tickets.
Alberta Peace Officers are authorized under the Peace Officer Act to perform a range of duties on behalf of the province. Alberta
Justice and the Solicitor General have overall authority for the Public Security Peace Officer Program, as provided in the Peace
Officer Act. Procedures Regulation under the Provincial Offences Procedure Act authorizes violation tickets for wildfire related
The RCMP and other Government of Alberta appointed Peace Officers (e.g. Fish and Wildlife Officers, Conservation Officers, etc.) have full authority under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act. They may assist in education, compliance and enforcement activities on forested lands in Alberta. Additionally, some community Peace Officers may also hold authority to enforce portions of the Act within their jurisdictions.
Below is a list of potential actions that a Forest Guardian, Forest Officer or Peace Officer may take depending on their level of authority.
Education of wildfire legislative and regulatory requirements is one of the functions of Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development. This is key to preventing wildfires and encouraging compliance.
A fire permit from Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development is required for all outdoor burning, except cooking and warming fires inside the Forest Protection Area (FPA) during fire season.
The responsibility for issuance of fire permits rests with Fire Guardians and Forest Officers. Fire permits are governed by the Forest and Prairie Protection Act and associated regulations inside the FPA.
Local municipal bylaws may also require permission for burning on land located outside of the FPA. Consult your local municipality for specific information.
Fire Advisories, Restrictions, Bans and Closures
Periodically throughout the wildfire season, permits and/or campfires may be restricted or prohibited within defined areas of the
province. In addition, activities that pose a high risk of igniting a wildfire, like off-highway (OHV) vehicles use, may be
restricted when fire conditions are hazardous. A Fire Advisory is the first step in the fire bans system and can restrict
permits; further steps such as the Fire Restriction, Fire Ban, OHV Restriction, or Forest Area Closure are then established
with a Ministerial Order and penalties for violation may apply.
An information letter may be used for education purposes for any human-caused wildfires and may be used to advise a potential responsible party that they may be invoiced for the cost of the wildfire.
Order to Reduce or Remove (OTR)
An OTR is a written, legal instrument and a fire control order. A Forest Officer can issue an OTR for burning contrary to the conditions of a fire permit or can order a removal of a fire or fire hazard under the authority of the Forest
and Prairie Protection Act. Non-compliance with an order creates an offence and a violation may be prosecuted accordingly.
A written warning informs the regulated party that they are contravening a specific legislative or regulatory requirement and may recommend a course of action to achieve compliance. Written Warnings create a formal history of the alleged
non-compliance and, in cases where a warning is ignored or repeated, it may lead to an escalated enforcement response.
Specified Fines/Violation Ticket
A specified fine/violation ticket is a form of prosecution under the Provincial Offences Procedure Act that allows dealing effectively with easily observable non-compliance (e.g. a person who is burning without a permit or during a fire
ban). Ticket amounts may range from $360 to $1,200 per violation. A person can either pay the fine indicated or dispute the charge in court.
Administrative penalties are monetary penalties that are applied by a statutory decision-maker if it is determined that legislative or regulatory requirements have been contravened. Penalties can range up to $10,000 per occurrence per
day, and the focus is often on industry non-compliance issues, scaling the penalties to reflect the seriousness of the contraventions.
Cost recovery is intended to recover firefighting costs, suppression expenses and other damages suffered by the Crown from the responsible party. This can occur in a number of ways, including through the court system’s civil litigation
A prosecution is undertaken when an individual or a corporation is alleged to have contravened the law and is prosecuted in court.
It is often reserved for more serious violations and situations. Under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act, the maximum fine that
can be levied is $100,000 or imprisonment for up to two years in the case of an individual, and $1,000,000 in the case of a corporation.
Prosecutions can also occur for Criminal Code offenses.
The Forest and Prairie Protection Act is the primary legislation which enables the protection of the forests and prairies of Alberta from wildfire. It establishes the wildfire season, enables cost recovery, fire control orders
and sets maximum fine amounts. The Act also identifies wildland firefighting responsibilities and describes the authority of Forest Officers and Fire Guardians. It provides fire prevention requirements, regulates industrial operations
for wildfire prevention and identifies offences and penalties.
The Forest and Prairie Protection Act applies to all land within Alberta, with the exceptions of urban municipalities (cities, towns, villages, summer villages and the urban service area of specialized municipalities) and
lands. Section 6 of the Act allows the Minister to enter into fire control agreements on the lands mentioned as exceptions. The primary focus of the legislation is on the Forest Protection Area (FPA), or the forested areas of Alberta.
Regulations under the Act:
- Forest and Prairie Protection Regulation deals with general and industrial fire prevention measures and includes administrative penalty provisions.
- Forest and Prairie Protection (Ministerial) Regulation deals with fire hazard reduction as it pertains to debris disposal, conduct of firefighting operations and equipment requirements for industrial or commercial operations.
- Forest Protection Area Regulation establishes the Forest Protection Area in Alberta.
- Fire Control Zone Regulation establishes fire control zones in Alberta for the purposes of fire control orders such as restrictions, bans and closures.
- Non-Permit Area Regulation describes the lands that are designated as non-permit areas.