Wildfires are forcing evacuations across British Columbia and Alberta as dry conditions make it easy for fires to spread. Fire bans are in effect in both provinces.
There are now 54 active fires in B.C. and 78 in Alberta.
In B.C. two separate wildfires have forced officials to issue an alert for a number of communities in the province’s Cariboo region to be ready for evacuation, including Dripping Water First Nation.
The BC Wildfire Service said on May 5 through social media that there have been 104 human-caused wildfires since April 1, 2023.
There have also been what is known as “cultural and prescribed fire” burns in B.C.to help manage wildfire season. The province uses the term “to acknowledge Indigenous cultural burning as distinct from prescribed burning,” according to the provincial government website.
On May 3, BC Wildfire Service has completed a prescribed burn conducted in partnership with the Coty of Williams Lake and Williams Lake First Nation.
“The burn was successful in creating 50 hectares of more open, fire resilient forest. Monitoring of the burn site will continue in order to evaluate objectives that were outlined in the burn plan,” said a news release by the BC Wildfire Service.
There are no current evacuation orders in British Columbia.
In Alberta there has been 348 wildfires since Jan. 1, said Christie Tucker from Alberta Wildfire at a news conference on Friday. Tucker said Alberta tends to get earlier forest fires in the year than other areas in the country.
She stressed that the wildfire situation is rapidly changing.
“It is early in the day it is going to get hotter, windier and we are expecting extreme wildfire behaviour,” said Tucker.
Ontario and Quebec are sending 79 firefighters to assist the province through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre
Stephen Lacroix, managing director of Alberta Emergency Management Agency, urged people to follow all local evacuation orders.
Tucker said that human life is a major factor in prioritizing what fires to focus on.
“The number one factor is human life so what we are looking at is areas where communities are affected immediately and where we can help people right away,” said Tucker.
The primary focus in the province is Fox Lake and Rainbow lake in the northern part of the province.
Evacuations have displaced a large number of Alberta residents.
“Over 13,000 Albertans have been evacuated from their homes as well speak,” said Lacroix.
An out out-of-control blaze burning in the northern community of Fox Lake prompted Little Red River Cree Nation to issue an evacuation order on Tuesday now covers about 1,458 hectares.
The only way in and out of Little Red River Cree Nation is a small barge. A line of 600 people was waiting to cross the Peace River at its busiest moment, according to Chief Conroy Sewepagaham on a Facebook live post.
“We have ground crews and firefighting guys keeping an eye out for individuals, but as far as we know everybody has been evacuated,” said Sewepagaham.
The Northern grocery store and 20 homes have burned down.
The Beaver Lake Fire Department provided on update on a Buffalo Ranch Fire at Beaver Lake Cree Nation, about 220 km north of Edmonton, on their social media.
The fire is about 200 hectares in size. Bulldozers are on site and Alberta wildfire crews are fighting the fire in addition to helicopters using a fire bucket.
Authorities said that Alberta wildfire firefighters, the Rainbow Lake Fire Department and air support from helicopters and airtankers have been able to prevent it from spreading towards the town.
While officials said there currently is no threat to the community, the Town of Rainbow Lake has issued an evacuation notice as a precaution.
Multiple grass and brush fires have been spreading in windy and hot conditions.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo says a fire about 35 km south of Fort McMurray is classified as being held and does not pose any immediate risk to residents near the area of Gregoire Lake.
An evacuation notice has been issued for the northwestern community of Rainbow Lake, as a 400 hectare wildfire rages out of control.
A home was destroyed by wildfire in Cold Lake First Nation in eastern Alberta on May 4 prompting an evacuation order there.
There is an evacuation order in an area near the hamlet of Entwistle, west of Edmonton.
Evacuation orders were also lifted for the Yellowhead County communities of Wildwood and Lobstick.
The Alberta government says crews have contained a fire near Calmar, but an evacuation order there remains in effect as high temperatures and winds are expected to continue.
An emergency alert said there is an out-of-control fire in Brazeau County, and people living in an area southeast of Drayton Valley should leave their homes. The fire in Drayton Valley is 100 hectares.
Most of central Alberta is under a fire ban after a period of windy and unseasonably hot conditions, with little chance of rain in the forecast.
In the southern part of the province the Town of Banff issued an alert after a prescribed burn turned into an out of control fire at the Compound Meadows. The town announced last night on social media that the wildfire was classified as ‘being held’ at three hectares.
Wildfires are a dynamic and rapidly changing occurrence. Check your local community or First Nation for the latest information on wildfire updates in your area.
Emergency management officials say to pack important documents and medication and plan to be away from home for at least three days.
With files from the Canadian Press