Over 13,000 residents throughout Western Canada have been ordered to evacuate their homes to escape active wildfires in the province of Alberta.
As of Friday, there were 92 active wildfires in the province, 31 of which are out of control, according to a news release from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA). Of the 61 remaining fires, 44 are under control and 17 are being suppressed and are not likely to spread. The province has seen an increase of 20 wildfires since Thursday, AEMA reported.
Mandatory evacuations have affected people living throughout northern and central Alberta, including Yellowhead County, Grande Prairie County, and First Nation communities like Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation and Little Red River Cree Nation.
“This is a stark reminder of just how unpredictable and powerful wildfires can be,” Stephen Lacroix, managing director of AEMA, told reporters on Friday. “I ask you to keep the affected folks in your thoughts today.”
Seven counties and communities have declared states of local emergency, including Brazeau, Grande Prairie, Parkland and Lac Ste. Anne counties, as well as the Beaver Lake Cree Nation.
One of the largest wildfires reported by AEMA known as EWF-031 is located about 26 miles southeast of Edson, a town in west-central Alberta. The fire is 24,000 hectares, over 59,000 acres, and three helicopter crews were trying to tame the flames from above Friday, according to the agency.
The wildfire in Fox Lake (HWF-030), an unincorporated community in northern Alberta, was 4,383 hectares, almost 11,000 acres, and has destroyed 20 homes, a police station and a water treatment plant, according to AEMA. On Friday, seven helicopters, two air tankers and six structural protection crews were working to put out the fire.
Fox Lake is where most of the Little Red River Cree Nation resides, according to the community’s website.
A province-wide fire ban has been issued due to the current “unusually warm, dry weather” with strong winds that make it easier for wildfires to start and spread, according to AEMA. This includes any open burning, like backyard fire pits.
The province has also enforced an off-highway vehicle restriction, banning the recreational use of the vehicles on public land and designated trails.
There were also several road closures in north and central Alberta as of Saturday, according to 511.alberta.ca.