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Alberta hopes increased fines will help bolster wildfire prevention

The Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee meets Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. Sarah Anderson/REPORTER

Alberta hopes higher fines, longer air tanker contracts, and a voluntary fire prevention program will help protect communities from wildfires this year.

Following the massive Fort McMurray wildfire last May, the government strengthened penalties for people who abandon campfires or burn during fire bans.

The legislation also makes it easier for the government to restrict the use of off-highway vehicles when fire conditions are hazardous.

Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier says he hopes more communities will apply for Firesmart program funding to clear brush and trees away to prevent fires.

Carlier says the government will also sign longer contracts with private air tanker companies this season after the contract period was reduced early last year.

Fire permits will be required for any burning other than campfires in forested areas when the wildfire season begins on March 1.