Officials advise Albertans to postpone May long weekend plans due to wildfires
Officials are advising Albertans to consider postponing their long weekend plans as nearly 100 wildfires continue to burn throughout the province.
Christie Tucker of Alberta Wildfire said Friday that the May long weekend is typically when the province sees a spike in human-caused wildfires, adding that last year 97 wildfires started over the weekend under less extreme danger levels.
"This wildfire season is affecting all of us and firefighters appreciate every single action that reduces potential for fires here in Alberta," said Tucker.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 93 wildfires burning in Alberta, 26 of which are out of control.
Most of the province remains under a fire ban, as well as a ban of off-roading vehicles such as quads.
Tucker said fire weather experts have put on a red flag watch for the High Level, Fort Vermillion and Fort Chipewyan areas.
"That signals to both firefighters and the public that it's a hazardous fire environment and they need to take extra care for their own safety," said Tucker.
Colin Blair, with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said an estimated 275 structures, including homes and businesses, have been destroyed.
"Our thoughts are with anyone who has lost homes or businesses or experienced any loss as a result of these wildfires," Blair said. "We know this is an extremely difficult time and the resilience of that Albertans have shown has been striking."
Tucker said more than 8,300 square kilometres of land has burned, equal to about 10 times the size of the metro Calgary area.
"We will all be on high alert this weekend. It's 10 C above seasonal and dry with gusting winds," said Tucker.
A team from the northwestern United States is to arrive Saturday and head to a fire near Edson in western Alberta, said Tucker, adding that the government has requested 100 more troops from the Canadian Armed Forces to help with the firefighting effort.
In Saskatchewan, the province's public safety agency advised residents Friday to take extreme caution when near areas with dirt and dry grass.
The Quebec government is sending support to Saskatchewan to help the province tackle the 29 active wildfires in the province.
Saskatchewan expects to receive two amphibious tankers this weekend that will join their aerial tankers.
Also Friday, the British Columbia government warned a return to more seasonal spring conditions is raising the risk of lightning-caused wildfires heading into the long weekend, after a prolonged hot and dry spell across much of the province.
The forecast for Fort St. John, in wildfire-embattled northeastern B.C., shows a risk of thunderstorms starting Friday night and stretching into Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2023.
Angela Amato and Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press