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Fire crews battled wildfires threatening communities in western Canada on Sunday as cooler temperatures and a bit of rain brought some relief, but officials warned the reprieve came only in some areas.
Officials in Alberta said there were 108 active fires in the province and the number of evacuees grew to about 29,000, up from approximately 24,000 Saturday, when a provincewide state of emergency was declared.
Two out-of-control wildfires in neighboring British Columbia also caused some people to leave their homes, and officials warned that they expected high winds to cause the blazes to grow bigger in the next few days.
COLORADO WILDFIRE FORCES EVACUATION OF MORE THAN 19,000 RESIDENTS
Provinicial officials in Alberta said the weather forecast was favorable for the next few days, with small amounts of rain and overcast conditions. But they cautioned that hot and dry conditions were predicted to return within a few days.
“People have called this season certainly unprecedented in recent memory because we have so many fires so spread out,” Christie Tucker with Alberta Wildfire said at a briefing. “It’s been an unusual year.”
A burned section of a Canadian forest smolders near Edson, Alberta, on May 6, 2023. (Government of Alberta Fire Service/The Canadian Press via AP)
Colin Blair, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said accurate damage reports were not yet available because conditions made it difficult to assess the situation. There were of buildings destroyed in the town of Fox Lake, including 20 homes, a police station and a store.
In northeastern British Columbia, officials urged residents to evacuate the areas around two out-of-control wildfires near the Alberta border, saying there were reports of some people staying behind.
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“This is impeding the response and putting their lives and the lives of firefighters at risk,” said Leonard Hiebert, chairman of the Peace River Regional District.
A third fire in British Columbia was burning out of control 430 miles to the south, in the Teare Creek region, and some residents near the village of McBride were evacuated.