Alberta battles wildfires, takes in Saskatchewan evacuees

July 6, 2015

By: Edmonton Journal

A forecast for lower temperatures and slower wind speeds may aid firefighters battling an out-of control wildfire near North Tallcree First Nation.

Northern Alberta forest fires near High Level are a top priority this weekend, the minister of municipal affairs said Friday.

On Thursday evening 200 people were evacuated from the small community about 100 kilometres southeast of High Level.

The fire burned south and southwest away from the community overnight Friday, and continued to burn about four kilometres west of the Tallcree on Saturday.

“The conditions are very challenging, but I can assure you we are keeping a close eye on the situation,” Municipal Affairs Minister Deron Bilous said Friday.

More than 20 fires are considered out of control in the area, the Alberta Emergency Management Agency said.

As of 4 p.m. Friday the closest fire, started by lightning, burned about 1,500 hectares five km west of the community, Alberta Emergency Management Agency executive director Scott Long said. No homes or buildings have been damaged.

In addition to combating fires in Alberta, the provincial government and Red Cross are preparing to receive 5,000 people fleeing wildfires in the La Ronge area of Saskatchewan. The first evacuees arrived in Cold Lake Saturday afternoon.

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, there were two other fires being closely monitored on Saturday, including a wildfire burning 15 km north of Meander River where 400 residents were on an evacuation alert and a fire burning 50 kilometres west of High Level that was putting heavy smoke into the community.

Since April 1, about 1,260 fires have burned 250,000 hectares across the province, Long said. In comparison, there were about 725 fires during the entire 2014 wildfire season.

Dry conditions, heat and strong winds haven’t helped this year, Long said.

“When those winds start to subside, then the tension level in all the operation centres will start to go down.”

A temporary fire weather advisory was lifted at noon on Saturday, though the fire hazard remained high to extreme across north and central Alberta.

By: Edmonton Journal

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