Alberta declares state of emergency as massive wildfires force 30 000 residents to evacuate, Canada
The Alberta government declared a provincial state of emergency on Saturday, May 6, 2023, as fast-spreading wildfires forced nearly 30 000 residents from their homes. The fires are producing massive smoke clouds drifting into British Columbia and Northwest Territories.
The number of active wildfires in Alberta rose from 103 on Friday to 110 on Saturday, May 6, prompting the government to declare a provincial state of emergency. As of Sunday afternoon, there were 108 active wildfires across the province, with 31 classified as out-of-control. Over 29 000 Albertans have been forced to evacuate their homes due to the escalating crisis.
Officials from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and Alberta Wildfire are closely monitoring the situation, but the extent of the damage remains difficult to determine. Colin Blair, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, emphasized the priority of protecting lives and dealing with the emergency response. Assistance from other provinces and even Montana has arrived to help battle the fires.
Weather conditions have improved slightly in some parts of the province, with 5 to 12 mm (0.2 – 0.5 inches) of rain recorded overnight Saturday into Sunday morning in affected areas such as Edson, Hinton, and Jasper. However, meteorologists say more widespread, heavy rain is needed to mitigate the ongoing crisis.
The Alberta Wildfire is reminding all residents that the use of recreational drones over wildfires in Alberta is dangerous, illegal and could result in a fine of up to $15 000 for putting aircraft and people at risk. “Please give Alberta firefighters the space they need to do their jobs safely.”
The declaration of a state of emergency enables the provincial government to access emergency funds and mobilize additional support, such as around-the-clock monitoring and intergovernmental coordination. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith plans to speak with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss potential military support and other resources for affected communities.
By 09:00 UTC on Monday, May 8, the number of active wildfires across the province slightly decreased to 105, with 27 classified as out-of-control. The total number of wildfires since the beginning of the year now stands at 405, which includes 285 that have been extinguished. Of these wildfires, 220 are still under investigation, 175 were caused by human activity, and 13 by lightning.
The 405 wildfires recorded this year represent a significant increase compared to the past five years. In 2022, Alberta experienced a total of 180 wildfires, 239 in 2021, 136 in 2020, 252 in 2019, and 195 in 2018.
1 Provincial state of emergency declared in Alberta as wildfires spread and more residents flee – CBC – May 6, 2023
2 Close to 30,000 people now displaced as Alberta continues battling wildfires – CBC – May 7, 2023
3 Alberta Wildfire – May 8, 2023
Featured image credit: NOAA/GOES-East, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers. Acquired at 01:00 UTC on May 6, 2023
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