More than 24,000 people have been evacuated from their homes as wildfires sweep across Western Canada.
Danielle Smith, Premier of the province of Alberta, told reporters that there were 103 active wildfires in the province burning around 122,000 hectares (300,000 acres) yesterday (May 6).
The residents were ordered to leave their homes to escape active wildfires as the blazes continue to spread, with 45 new wildfired started since Friday morning.
NBC News reported that at least 31 of the fires were are out of control.
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency said of the 61 remaining fires reported on Friday, 44 were under control and 17 being suppressed and not likely to spread.
Mandatory evacuations were issued to a total of 24,511 people throughout northern and central Alberta, including Yellowhead County, Grande Prairie County, and First Nation communities like Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation and Little Red River Cree Nation.
An additional 5,200 residents are under an evacuation alert, including those in Parkland and Saddle Hills counties.
Everything is subject to change as this is a “rapidly-evolving situation,” Smith said.
Smith activated the Emergency Management Cabinet Committee in response to the wildfires, which has been meeting daily since Friday.
She called the current situation “unprecedented” and assured residents that the government is prepared to use its emergency powers as needed.
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“Our top priority is and always will be public safety and we’re being briefed regularly by the experts who are handling the response,” Smith said.
It was possible that a provincial state of emergency would be declared, Smith added.
“I know that all of this is difficult for Albertans, especially those who have been directly affected by these wildfires,” NVC reported her as saying.
Fourteen counties and communities have declared states of local emergency, including Brazeau, Grande Prairie, Parkland and Lac Ste. Anne counties, as well as the Beaver Lake Cree Nation.
One of the largest wildfires reported by AEMA was located about 26 miles southeast of Edson, west-central Alberta.
Three helicopter crews were trying to control the flames of a fire covering 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres), according to the agency.
It said the wildfire at Fox Lake had already destroyed 20 homes, a police station and a water treatment plantSeven helicopters, two air tankers and six structural protection crews were working to control the fire.
Fox Lake is where most of the Little Red River Cree Nation resides, according to the community’s website.
“This is a stark reminder of just how unpredictable and powerful wildfires can be,” Stephen Lacroix, managing director of AEMA, told reporters on Friday.
“I ask you to keep the affected folks in your thoughts today.”
A province-wide fire ban has been issued as the warm, dry weather and strong winds make it easier for wildfires to spread, according to AEMA.
The province has also enforced an off-highway vehicle restriction that bans the recreational use of such vehicles on public land and designated trails.
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