Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Just as its oil sector recovers from last year's breakout, the provincial government in Alberta issued an advisory for the pending start of wildfire season.
Alberta declared March 1 as the official start of wildfire season. More than 235 square miles of land were scorched by wildfires last year. In the case of the Fort McMurray region, those fires prompted the largest residential evacuation in provincial history.
Provincial Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier said that, as protecting residents is the No. 1 priority, the government has enacted stricter enforcement measures targeting human-linked fire outbreaks.
"The wildfire that burned into Fort McMurray last year serves as a reminder of how important it is for us to be ready to respond to wildfires at a moment's notice," he said in a statement.
Alberta lies at the center of Canada's oil sector and blazes in and around Fort McMurray last year sidelined about 1 million barrels per day in oil production at its peak. That would represent about a quarter of the total Canadian oil production by today's standards.
By November, Suncor, the largest oil and gas company in Canada, said its production could increase more than 10 percent from 2016 levels.
Outside of the oil sector, the government estimated about 4,000 small businesses were impacted by the wildfires in an area that contributes about $70 billion to national gross domestic product.
Last year, the government recorded more than 1,300 wildfires. More than 60 percent of those were triggered by human activity.