This year's wildfire season will start 10 days earlier than usual, according to the province's announcement on Tuesday afternoon. In addition to the early declaration, Forestry and Parks is preparing for additional firefighters.

If passed, Budget 2024 will include funding to hire 100 new firefighters, which will result in five additional 20-person crews.

"Alberta is experiencing warmer than normal temperatures and below average precipitation in many areas of the province, leading to heightened wildfire risk. To better direct resources to new and existing wildfires, Alberta has declared an early start to the 2024 wildfire season," the province stated.

The early declaration of the beginning of the 2024 wildfire season is meant to provide additional measures to Alberta Wildfire, including the use of the fire ban and restriction system to help reduce human-caused wildfires in response to hazardous conditions.

At the end of January, President of the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA), Chief Randy Schroeder expressed concern over a lack of cohesive wildfire preparedness strategy for the province in an open letter to the government. 

"The AFCA has met with key Ministries presenting specific asks including additional resources, increased training capacity, equipment, and aerials and requesting for the establishment of a Provincial Fire Services Advisory Committee to assist in developing a dedicated provincial strategy to better manage and mitigate the risks associated with wildfire seasons," the letter stated in part.

The letter also underlined that there was concern that reliance on municipalities to financially backstop wildland fire response is not sustainable.

"With or without federal funding, the AFCA is inquiring about the allocation of additional resources towards wildfire management. There is a growing concern among Fire Chiefs across the province of the lack of communication of what the plan is, allocation of funds compared to previous years and plan for the recruitment and deployment of firefighters and equipment."

According to provincial data, 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, [last year's] season was 10 times more severe in terms of area burnt."

Albertans are urged to exercise extreme caution in forested areas and to avoid burning under warm, dry and windy conditions.

"It is also crucial that Albertans remain up to date on fire bans and restrictions in their areas to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires, which represented more than 60 per cent of wildfires this past season. Furthermore, any Albertan who has burning planned in the Forest Protection Area will require a permit."

In years past, wildfire season in Alberta ran from March 1 till the end of October.