Over 100 Wildfires Ravage Alberta, Forcing Thousands to Evacuate
More than 100 wildfires are raging across the Canadian province of Alberta, causing mandatory evacuations of several communities. As of 7 p.m. on Saturday, Alberta Wildfire listed 110 wildfires burning in the province, with 32 out of control, 22 being held, and 56 under control. The latest evacuation orders issued on Friday night included parts of Strathcona County and the Town of Edson, while the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) says more than 24,000 people have fled their homes. The fire at Fox Lake, located about 500km north of Edmonton, is out of control and has reached 16,390 hectares. Wildfire has destroyed a store, a local RCMP station, and 20 homes. Alberta Wildfire is investigating the causes of the blazes. While the origins of 84 were still unknown, investigators suspect humans caused 15, and lightning sparked 10.
The Alberta Premier, Danielle Smith, declared a provincial state of emergency on Saturday, after attending a campaign event in Calgary. Her emergency management cabinet committee first met on Friday, in the wake of thousands of people being ordered to evacuate their homes earlier in the week. Saturday evening saw more than 24,000 people in Alberta under evacuation orders as 110 active wildfires continued to burn, 36 of which were out of control. Smith said the threat facing her province was “unprecedented”. “Much of Alberta has been experiencing a hot, dry spring and with so much kindling, all it takes is a few sparks to ignite some truly frightening wildfires,” she explained. “These conditions have resulted in the unprecedented situation our province is facing today”.
The hot, dry spring has turned much of the landscape into kindling. In many areas, fire bans have been imposed, which prohibit the use of open wood fires on both public and private premises, including backyards. Christie Tucker, an information unit manager for Alberta Wildfire, reminded Albertans on Friday that there was a fire ban and off-highway vehicle restriction “across the Forest Protection Area.” Alberta Wildfire’s information unit manager said the province has requested help from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre and from partners in the United States. A team for managing incidents from British Columbia. was scheduled to arrive on Sunday and will take over two wildfires, including the one near Edson.
While Alberta received additional firefighters from Ontario and Quebec on Saturday, the province has requested more through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, a not-for-profit organization that’s owned and operated by federal, provincial, and territorial agencies to manage wildfires in Canada. According to Tucker, the wildfire-fighting endeavors in Alberta will receive support from firefighters who are expected to arrive from Ontario and Quebec.
The wildfire season is off to an aggressive start in Alberta, with a number of fires threatening communities in the north and east-central parts of the province, rather than one or two major blazes encroaching on a small number of communities in close proximity. By this time last year, only 417 hectares had been consumed by fires, whereas this year, roughly 391,000 hectares have already been consumed. The result is the “unprecedented situation our province is facing today,” said Premier Smith. She added, “I want to assure everyone that our province has the right tools, the right technology and the right resources in place to tackle this challenge, and they will get the supports that they need.”
Albertans can visit the Alberta Wildfire Dashboard on the province’s website for the latest information, or follow the Alberta Emergency Alert and Alberta Wildfire on Twitter. Online registration for evacuees is available at emergencyregistration.alberta.ca. The Alberta Government asks that all evacuees register at a local registration center, which can be found at alberta.ca/emergency or online. You can find details on evacuation orders and reception locations by visiting alberta.ca/emergency.
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