Nearly all of Alberta and much of neighboring Saskatchewan are at extreme fire risk.
Alberta declared a state of emergency as wildfires raged across Canada, forcing 25,000 people to flee their homes in what a senior official called an “unprecedented” crisis.
Thousands more were told to prepare to leave at short notice as the blaze surged to 110, fanned by strong winds.
A third of the fires were listed as out of control.
“We have declared a provincial state of emergency to protect the safety, health and welfare of Albertans,” Premier Danielle Smith said at a news conference Saturday after the government’s emergency management committee meeting said.
Earlier, she said the province — one of the largest oil-producing regions in the world — “has been going through a hot, dry spring, and with so many sparks, it only takes a spark to ignite some really scary wildfires.” “.
“These circumstances have led to the unprecedented situation our province is facing today,” she said.
So far, more than 20 communities have been evacuated and at least 122,000 hectares (301,000 acres) have burned, according to Smith.
She said the emergency declaration gives the Alberta government “greater powers to respond to extreme circumstances,” including mobilizing additional resources and releasing emergency funds.
Nearly the entire province of Alberta — during the election — as well as much of neighboring Saskatchewan and swathes of the Northwest Territories are at extreme fire risk, according to the federal government’s fire danger map.
Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair tweeted that Ottawa stands ready to provide federal assistance if needed.
Oil sands facilities are closely monitoring the hazard, but no production disruptions have been reported.
Drayton Valley, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) west of Edmonton, is home to 7,000 residents and was one of the communities evacuated as firefighters battled the out-of-control blaze.
About 550 kilometers (342 miles) north of the provincial capital, a fire destroyed 20 homes, a grocery store and a police station in the Fox Lake community.
Residents were evacuated by boat and helicopter.
In Edson, a town of more than 8,000 people, residents were also ordered to “evacuate immediately.”
Extreme weather has repeatedly hit western Canada, increasing in intensity and frequency in recent years due to global warming.
The 2016 wildfires in Canada’s oil sands disrupted production and forced 100,000 residents from Fort McMurray, crippling the country’s economy.
As recently as 2021, the westernmost part of British Columbia saw record-breaking summer heat that killed more than 500 people and wildfires that destroyed entire towns.
What followed was devastating flooding and mudslides.