Wildfires In Alberta Have Forced 29,000 People To Be Evacuated
Wildfires in Alberta have forced 29,000 people to be evacuated as more than 100 wildfires are currently raging across the Alberta region of Canada. Officials have described the situation as unprecedented for the province, with 16 new fires having ignited in the past 24 hours alone.
According to Christie Tucker, the Wildfire Information Unit Lead, 108 active wildfires are currently being battled by firefighters, 31 of which are burning out of control. This level of wildfire activity is not typical for this time of year, and the extent of burned land is also unusual.
Tucker attributes this to bone-dry conditions, abnormally high temperatures, and strong winds. The wildfires have already burned approximately 375,000 hectares (926,000 acres) in Alberta this year, with recent blazes causing significant damage over the last few days.
Additional firefighters and resources are being sent from across the country to combat the growing fires, with crews from Quebec and Ontario already joining the firefight. According to Tucker, a prolonged firefight is likely.
Firefighters in Alberta have managed to make some progress on Sunday with the aid of scattered showers which allowed them to access areas that were previously inaccessible due to the intensity of the wildfires. Although firefighters are hoping that cooler temperatures and higher humidity will help them contain the fires in the southern and central regions of the province, challenging conditions persist in the north, according to Tucker.
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Tucker warned that the area still experiences dry weather and winds, which could lead to extreme fire behavior. In the past week, communities in Alberta have faced extremely high temperatures, with the capital city of Edmonton experiencing temperatures more than 10 degrees above average.
A lack of precipitation in the region may have contributed to the extreme fire conditions in Alberta, drying out the land and making it harder to contain fires, according to CNN Meteorologist Robert Shackelford. Despite rapidly changing wildfires across the province, firefighters will continue to focus their efforts on fires that pose a threat to communities, Tucker said.
However, multiple hospitals have been fully evacuated, and many roads are closed in northern and central Alberta, as reported by province officials. As of Sunday, about 5,000 individuals have taken refuge at evacuation centers, according to Alberta Emergency Management chief Colin Blair.
As thousands of residents of Alberta flee their homes and head to evacuation centers, they are uncertain if they will have a home to return to once the evacuation orders are lifted. According to Rick Laboucan, a resident of Fox Lake, his family home and the homes of family and friends have been destroyed, and the little village on the north side of Fox Lake has been wiped out.
Authorities reported that an out-of-control wildfire has burned more than 16,300 hectares of land, about 40,200 acres, as of Sunday in the community of Fox Lake. However, the full extent of the damage is still unknown as the thick smoke and hazardous fire conditions have made it difficult for crews to assess the property loss, according to Colin Blair, the Alberta Emergency Management chief.
Although dozens of structures have been damaged, including in the Fox Lake area, the priority of the authorities is to protect lives and deal with the emergency response, Blair added. Immediate evacuations have been ordered for 8,000 people in Yellowhead County, and another 3,600 were ordered to evacuate from Little Red River Cree Nation.
Alberta fire officials reported that another out-of-control wildfire, EWF-031, has burned about 77,920 hectares of land, about 192,500 acres, southeast of the town of Edson in Yellowhead County. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has characterized the situation as unprecedented and challenging, and Christie Tucker said that the province has seen extraordinary conditions this spring, resulting in an unusual year.