Nearly 400,000 hectares of Alberta currently burning out of control

May 31 2019, 11:05 pm

Things have gotten much worse for Alberta.

The nine out-of-control wildfires currently burning throughout the province saw significant growth over the past 24 hours, with a total of 374,768 hectares having been burned through by May 31.

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Alberta Wildfire’s Christie Tucker spoke to media with an update Friday morning, stating hot and dry conditions in Alberta have caused the fires to spread at a much faster rate than usual.

“The last 24 hours have been an extremely challenging time for firefighters in Alberta,” she said.

“Because of the ongoing dry and windy conditions and the very low relative humidity, we saw fires moving very quickly, even at night when they wouldn’t traditionally be moving so quickly.”

Tucker stated that the Chuckegg Creek Wildfire, the largest fire currently burning in Alberta, had grown to 230,000 hectares as of this morning, and had been spread south by 30 km between noon on Thursday and 4 am Friday morning — a rate of 23 metres a minute.

She also noted that this wildfire season has been far more devastating than the five-year average, as the same time period (March 1 to May 31) generally sees an average of 131,712 hectares burned as a result of 548 wildfires, while 2019 has seen nearly 375,000 hectares burned as a result of 502 fires.

The most recent update from the Government of Alberta, which was released at 7 pm Thursday night, noted that 2,300 wildland firefighters and staff, approximately 200 helicopters, and 27 air tankers and heavy equipment are currently on the ground throughout the province, battling the following fires:

  • Chuckegg Creek wildfire, southwest of High Level, over 230,000 hectares
  • Jackpot Creek wildfire, formerly west of Steen River, about 17,000 hectares
  • McMillan Complex wildfire, southwest of Bigstone Cree Nation, over 74,500 hectares
  • Maria Lake wildfire, last estimated at 5,500 hectares in size and is expected to burn into the larger McMillan Complex wildfire
  • Battle Complex wildfire in Peace River, over 44,000 hectares

Mandatory evacuations have been called for the following areas:

  • Keg River, Carcajou and all residents from the northern border of the County of Northern Lights to Township Road 922 (Notikewin Road)
  • Sandy Lake
  • Wabasca, the Bigstone Cree Nation and Chipewyan Lake Village
  • Hamlet of Marten Beach
  • Lesser Slave Lak Provincial Park
  • Town of High Level and Mackenzie County areas south/southeast of town
  • Dene Tha’ First Nation communities of Bushe River, Meander River, and Chateh
  • Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement

Slave Lake, an area where evacuees from High Level fled to last week, is now on an eight-hour evacuation notice itself.

The impacts of the fire have been felt all around the province, with the City of Calgary registering as “very high risk” on Environment Canada’s air quality health index and the skies in Edmonton turning orange as a result of the smoke that has blown in.

According to Tucker, there does not appear to be much help in the way of precipitation in the foreseeable future:

“Conditions are stabilizing a little bit today, but we still don’t have any foreseeable relief in the conditions,” she said.

“We are expecting fires to continue and we will continue to fight them with the assistance from across Canada that we’ve been getting.”

Chandler WalterChandler Walter

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