A change in weather conditions on Sunday brought some relief to firefighters battling wildfires that have displaced thousands of Alberta residents.
Scattered light showers in the southern part of the province, extending to Fox Creek in the north, had a positive impact on fire behaviour and allowed firefighters access to previously hazardous areas.
The officials from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and Alberta Wildfire noted that improved conditions, including some dampness and coolness, allowed firefighters to get closer to fire zones that were previously inaccessible, mainly benefiting firefighting crews on the ground.
Despite the challenges that firefighters face in the northern part of the province, they will continue to prioritize forest fires that pose a threat to human life and communities.
10 areas are at the greatest risk
- More than 8,000 people evacuated from the city of Edson due to wildfires.
- Evansburg, Entwistle, Wildwood and Hansonville have seen 1,270 evacuations and 21 structures have been damaged.
- In the Fox Lake and Little Red River Cree Nation, more than 5,000 people have been evacuated and more than 20 structures have been damaged.
- There is no information available on the number of evacuations at Rainbow Lake.
- In Drayton Valley and Brazeau County, 7,200 people have been evacuated, with more than 1,000 registered at the Expo Center.
- 80 people from the O’Chiese First Nation have been evacuated and one home has been destroyed.
- More than 470 people have been evacuated from Grande Prairie County.
- Clear Hills residents have been advised to stay alert and be prepared to go.
- Grizzly Complex has impacted structures, but smoke has prevented proper assessment.
- High Prairie residents have been advised to be prepared to leave within the hour, with the reception center located in Slave Lake.
108 fires, 31 out of control
More than 100 wildfires, covering an estimated 121,909 hectares (301,243 acres), prompted the Alberta government to declare a provincial state of emergency on Saturday. As of Monday, 108 wildfires have been reported, with 31 classified as out of control. Firefighters from British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario were deployed to help with operations as hundreds of residents were evacuated from their homes.
Officials with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and Alberta Wildfire reported that better weather conditions Sunday made evacuation operations easier, allowing firefighters to get closer to some of the wildfires that were previously out of control.
Drayton Valley, located 87 miles (140 km) west of Edmonton, is among the hardest-hit areas, with all 7,000 residents evacuated by authorities last Thursday. Western Canada has been severely affected by wildfires in recent years due to rising temperatures and exceptionally dry weather conditions.
In 2021, a devastating fire broke out in Lytton, British Columbia, one day after the area suffered the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada, killing two people and destroying the entire city.
With global warming bringing with it a hotter and drier climate, Canadian forests are increasingly vulnerable to wildfires, with more than 8,000 fires occurring in the country each year, burning an average of more than 2.1 million hectares (5.2 million acres), according to the National Forestry Database.
Wildfires in Western Canada intensify
Albertan Premier Danielle Smith and NDP leader Rachel Notley met Sunday to discuss supporting Albertans during the ongoing wildfires, according to Smith’s Twitter. Notley, who served as prime minister during the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire, offered her insights and experience in a statement.
Hot, dry and windy conditions continue to present a challenge for firefighters, with winds expected to reach 50 kilometers per hour on Sunday. However, the winds are expected to decrease on Monday and Tuesday.
The recent wildfires in western Canada are part of a trend that experts warn will increase in frequency and intensity as the climate changes.
The 2019 Chuckegg Creek Wildfire, which burned more than 331,000 acres, is among the many devastating fires that have affected the region.
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