Alberta officials are hoping a mix of cooler temperatures and rain in the forecast – along with the arrival of out-of-province firefighters – will provide some relief as wildfires continue to burn.
Still more than 100 wildfires are active in Alberta as of early Sunday afternoon, which forced the province to declare a state of emergency the day before. Thirty of those fires were deemed out of control.
More than 29,000 Albertans have been forced from their homes.
The Buck Creek fire that forced the evacuation of some residents of Drayton Valley was still in effect Sunday. The community says the blaze grew from 3,500 hectares to 4,970 hectares.
“Light rain in the region is working in our favour, however it is not enough to make a significant change in the situation to allow for re-entry,” the Town of Drayton Valley wrote on Facebook.
“The risk to the public is high and it is not safe to re-enter the community at this time.”
Yellowhead County evacuees currently in Hinton and Jasper were told they were not required to leave those areas. The Town of Jasper had warned Saturday there was a possibility the community might lose power.
“We are working closely with our municipal neighbours who are assisting our county and the Town of Edson evacuees, and will continue to provide assistance and information until we are able to get residents home,” Yellowhead County shared on Facebook Sunday morning.
Electric transmission company AltaLink posted on Twitter late Saturday that “the incredible work of firefighters” slowed fire growth that was posing a threat to utility lines supplying power to areas west of Edson, including Hinton, Robb and Jasper, and that cooler weather was expected to help, too.
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The province said in a wildfire update the forecast is favourable for the next few days, with trace amounts of rain and overcast conditions in some of the affected areas.
“Today we’ve seen some light scattered showers in the southern part of the province, as far north as Fox Creek,” said Christie Tucker from Alberta Wildfire at a late Sunday afternoon press conference. “The good news is that it did have an impact on fire behaviour today in that area. It allowed firefighters to get a chance to work on the areas of some wildfires that they haven’t been able to get close to because of extreme wildfire beahviour.
“We’re expecting this trend to continue over the next couple of days with cooler temperatures and higher humidity, helping firefighters who are working in the south and central part of the province. Unfortunately in north of the province they will continue to be challenged with the conditions that they’re seeing.”
Not all areas will receive rain, and the long-term forecast is predicting a return to hot and dry conditions within a few days, and that lightning could spark additional blazes.
“While there are some areas that could have experienced some precipitation other areas may not. The wildfires in the area are extremely hot and will burn deep into the ground. These fires can reignite again if conditions are right,” a provincial update on Sunday said about the Deep Creek Complex fires, which have threatened communities in Parkland and Yellowhead counties west of Edmonton.
“Forecasted weather may help with fire suppression efforts on the fire line, but crews will need to be prepared for a change of higher temperatures into early next week and the increase in fire behaviour that it will bring.”
Officials from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and Alberta Wildfire are scheduled to provide an update on the wildfire situation later Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile Alberta Wildfire touted the arrival of nearly 80 wildland firefighters from Quebec and Ontario
“(They) are on their way to areas that need them the most,” tweeted Alberta Wildfire. “We’re grateful for the support. Thank you! Merci!”
Close to 80 wildland firefighters arrived yesterday from Quebec and Ontario and are on their way to areas that need them the most. We’re grateful for the support. Thank you! Merci! pic.twitter.com/YvdhRbWf3Q
— Alberta Wildfire (@AlbertaWildfire) May 7, 2023
On Sunday UCP Leader Danielle Smith toured some of the affected wildfire areas near Entwistle. She says she also met with families who were evacuated.
“I know it’s difficult to be displaced from your home, belongings, and community,” Smith tweeted. “Our emergency services personnel are doing everything they can to stop these fires.
“It just rained a few minutes ago here in Entwistle. We are all thankful.”
I just toured some of the affected wildfire areas near Entwistle.
Earlier, I met with many families who were evacuated. I know it’s difficult to be displaced from your home, belongings, and community.
Our emergency services personnel are doing everything they can to stop… pic.twitter.com/9KJBghqovl
— Danielle Smith (@ABDanielleSmith) May 7, 2023
Earlier Sunday, Smith met with Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, which Smith said was intended to keep the NDP leader informed about the wildfire situation and the state of emergency.
Alberta is in the middle of an election campaign with a vote on May 29, and some candidates in areas affected by the fires have announced they are suspending campaign activities.
“At times like these, Albertans expect all their elected leaders to work together to help our people,” Smith tweeted after the meeting.
—With files from The Canadian Press