COLD LAKE – The Alberta government says it will provide weekly updates on the ongoing wildfire situation, as the province continues to experience higher-than-normal wildfire risk and activity. 

As of April 24, several new wildfires have been reported since last week’s update, emphasizing the need for collective action to mitigate the spread of wildfires and ensure public safety. 

Minister of Forestry and Parks Todd Loewen emphasized the importance of community effort in wildfire prevention and protection during a media conference held on Wednesday.  

He stated, “Over the past week, Alberta had several active wildfires classified as out of control at various points in time, reinforcing the need for collective action on behalf of Albertans. We must all do our part to prevent human-caused wildfires and protect our communities and forests in the coming weeks. Protecting the lives of Albertans has always been and will continue to be our number one priority.” 

Loewen also highlighted the critical role of technology in keeping Albertans informed. He urged residents to download the Wildfire, Fire Ban, and Alberta Emergency apps for up-to-date information, noting that these tools provide crucial updates and guidance during an emergency. 

Wildfire activity has led to evacuation alerts in communities across the province, including the northeast. 

Stephen Lacroix, Managing Director and Senior Assistant Deputy Minister of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, stated that 20 individuals remain evacuated from Cold Lake First Nations, although the evacuation order has been lifted, indicating that residents should be back home shortly. 

Current situation 

Josee St. Onge, Information Unit Manager at Alberta Wildfire, provided a detailed update on the wildfire situation.  

As of 9 a.m., there were 63 wildfires burning in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta. None were classified as out of control, seven were being held, and 56 were under control.  

St. Onge stated, “So far this year, we’ve responded to 205 wildfires in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta that have burned about 755 hectares. Our five-year average for this time of year is 120 wildfires with around 230 hectares burned. Alberta Wildfire is also responding to a mutual aid fire in the Municipal District of Peace.” 

Shared responsibility 

Loewen also addressed the collaborative efforts between Alberta Wildfire and local municipalities, emphasizing that wildfire response is a shared responsibility.  

“This past week, we had communities who received evacuation alerts. Please know that Alberta Wildfire is working very closely with local municipalities to contain and suppress these wildfires before they create a necessity to evacuate. We will continue to coordinate with local authorities, and we strongly urge you to stay vigilant and follow all local advisories and orders should they occur,” he explained. 

The Minister also stressed the need for wildfire prevention measures and fire bans as part of the strategy to mitigate the spread of wildfires.  

“We will be introducing fire bans today. Alberta wildfire response is only one part of the equation. As I’ve mentioned many times before, wildfire prevention and preparedness is a shared responsibility. Everyone must do their part to safeguard their properties and communities by fostering wildfire resilience,” he said. 

Loewen reiterated that the conditions leading to the elevated wildfire risk include an early spring, low snow load, and a combination of drought conditions over the past two years. He concluded by emphasizing the need for continued vigilance and collaboration among all stakeholders to ensure the safety of Alberta’s communities and forests.

By Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 24, 2024 at 13:03

This item reprinted with permission from   Lakeland This Week   Bonnyville, Alberta

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