While the recent moist weather was a salve, Alberta is not out of the wildfire season yet.
The province’s hotspot of the week goes to Fort Chipewyan. The area – along with the First Nations communities of Allison Bay and Dog Head – saw a new blaze start over the weekend.
That event swiftly escalated into the province’s number one priority wildfire, said Christie Tucker, information unit manager with Alberta Wildfire, during Tuesday afternoon’s daily provincial wildfire update. It led to an evacuation alert for the Hamlet of Fort Chipewyan, Mikisew First Nation (Allison Bay, Dog Head and Devils Gate) and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
“It’s roughly 3,000 hectares in size and is 13 kilometers away from the community of Fort Chipewyan. We have crews and aircraft working on that fire with more on the way. Fortunately, today, winds in the area are light and are blowing away from the community,” she began.
“This is a reminder of how fast the situation can change during wildfire season and why we are constantly monitoring conditions everywhere. When we see a period of warm, dry and windy weather in an area, it’s likely to mean if a fire starts it has a good chance of spreading.”
The fire danger continues to be very high or extreme in the northern regions of the province. Jasper and Jasper National Park lifted the fire ban late last week, and the current fire danger is considered ‘moderate,’ but caution is still urged as conditions continue to be tinder dry. The Edson Forest Wildfire Area update listed a ‘high’ danger on Tuesday afternoon.
Firefighters continue to battle blazes left, right and center throughout Alberta with approximately 2,600 personnel on duty. That includes support from partner agencies across Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the Canadian Armed Forces.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 64 active wildfires in the Forest Protection Area, 18 of which were classified as out of control, 19 as being held and 27 at under control status. Five communities remain under evacuation orders affecting slightly more than 3,500 people.
“There continues to be elevated fire activity with shifting winds and warm temperatures. With dry conditions persisting, there is still a chance that fire activity could increase as the week progresses. It’s important that Albertans remain vigilant as fires can start easily and spread quickly in these conditions. Alberta continues to be under provincial state of emergency and the Provincial Emergency Coordination Center rains at a level four,” said Bre Hutchinson, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, during Tuesday’s update.
“While firefighters and emergency personnel have continued to make great strides battling the fires, we cannot let our guard down. Now is not the time for complacency. Please continue to do your part and help prevent the spread of wildfires and further damage from occurring. Our actions over the coming days and weeks will help ensure that all birds can return home safely and stay home for good,” Hutchinson added.
By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on May 31, 2023