Thousands forced out of their homes due to wildfire season in Western Canada

Three provinces are experiencing wildfires that are displacing thousands

western canada wildfires

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew surveys wildfires burning in northern Manitoba from a helicopter on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski

Wildfires in northern Alberta and British Columbia are continuing to force thousands of people from their homes.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says her heart goes out to Fort McMurray residents who have had to leave their homes eight years after a fire devastated parts of the city.

“Our government is constantly monitoring the situation … this evacuation is a stark reminder that this province lives along side wildfires and other natural disasters,” said Smith at a press conference on Wednesday.

Roughly 6,600 residents have been evacuated out of parts of Fort McMurray, Alta., roughly 440 km north of Edmonton.

“Safety is our first priority,” said Smith.

The nearby Fort McMurray First Nation is under a two-hour evacuation notice.

Forestry and Parks Minister Todd Loewen said bans on fires and off-road vehicles are in place for the area.

He said fierce winds are responsible for pushing the fire close to the city.

There is not yet information on when people are able to return home.

“It would be hard at this point to draw any conclusions on what the next few days may bring,” said Todd Loewen.

Gerry Clarke, an emergency response team coordinator for the city of Edmonton said that as of this morning, there are 220 residents from the evacuation zones in Fort McMurray who have registered at the reception centre.

“The Canadian Red Cross in on-site and assisting with coordinating accommodations in the Edmonton area for residents from the evacuations,” said Clarke in an email to APTN News.

Locals are asking about twinning a highway that leads out of Fort McMurray and is the evacuation route to Edmonton.  Hwy 63  is the only major route between Edmonton and Fort McMurray.

Smith said they are working with an unnamed First Nation up north to determine another road.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said Wednesday on social media that crews worked until 3 a.m. dropping water on the fire, which had grown to 210 square kilometres in size.

“We are working with a First Nation chief up there,” said Smith, “We don’t have a route decided yet but the consultation is underway.”

In Fort Nelson, B.C., about 4,700 people are out of their homes. In Manitoba, a fire near Cranberry Portage has forced out about 500 residents. According to the Manitoba Wildfire Service there are currently nine wildfires in the province with two fires considered out-of-control.

The BC Wildfire Service said conditions remain unseasonably warm and dry throughout much of the province, raising the risk of fires sparking and spreading.

There are 127 wildfires and two wildfires are considered “of note” on the BC Wildfire Service information portal. Fifteen of the total wildfires are still considered out-of-control.

It said there’s potential for winds to increase the aggressive fire behaviour in the Fort Nelson area, where an 84 square-kilometre blaze is burning just outside the town.

A public information meeting is set to take place this afternoon for evacuees from the Fort Nelson area in northeastern B.C., as a wildfire burns just outside the town.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality says the meeting is to take place at the North Peace Arena in Fort St. John.

All of the wildfire departments have said that the majority of fires are human-caused which is any activity that is not lightning. The officials urge people to take precautions and obey local fire bans.

With files from the Canadian Press

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