May 21st, 2024

Wildfires rage on across Western Canada as B.C. town braces for return of high winds


By Chuck Chiang, The Canadian Press on May 12, 2024.

The wildfires across Western Canada are also creating poor air quality in a number of regions spanning all four provinces, with Environment Canada forecasting "very high risk" -- or level 10-plus -- on the air quality health index for Edmonton and Winnipeg as well as a number of small cities across the Prairies. Smoke from wildfires blankets the city as a couple has a picnic in Edmonton, Saturday, May 11, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The northeast British Columbia municipality where thousands have evacuated due to a nearby wildfire is bracing for worsening conditions as blazes rage near several communities across Western Canada.

In an update posted early Sunday, the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality is warning all remaining residents to leave as fire risks “have escalated to a greater level.”

The update says an incoming weather system will bring strong winds from the west, posing a threat for the community of Fort Nelson, B.C., located just east of the Parker Lake wildfire now measured at 25 square kilometres in size.

Out-of-control blazes are also burning in Alberta near the communities of Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie, with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo issuing an alert for Fort McMurray residents to be ready to evacuate on short notice.

In Manitoba, another out-of-control wildfire near Flin Flon some 760 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg has forced the evacuation of a number of homes and cottages in the area. The City of Flin Flon issued a notice saying Highway 10 linking to Cranberry Portage, Man., has been closed.

The wildfires across Western Canada are also creating poor air quality in a number of regions spanning Manitoba to British Columbia, with Environment Canada reporting “very high risk” – or level 10-plus – on the air quality health index for Edmonton and Winnipeg as well as a number of small cities across the Prairies.

The weather agency says other communities seeing or possibly facing very high risk in their air quality today include Fort St. John, B.C.; Medicine Hat, Drayton Valley and Cold Lake in Alberta; and Swift Current, Sask.

“Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or you or someone in your care feel unwell,” Environment Canada said in its air-quality warning, adding people should stay indoors if possible. “Contact your health care provider or local health authority if you develop severe symptoms or need advice.”

In Fort Nelson, B.C., Environment Canada is forecasting winds that dropped to as low as 2 kilometres an hour on Saturday to pick up by Sunday evening. Forecasters predict winds will reach 20 kilometres an hour, with gusts of up to 50 kilometres an hour expected by Monday.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality says the wind “has the real potential to significantly increase the size of the fires over the next 48 hours,” and Fort Nelson’s emergency operations centre itself is relocating south later today.

“Know that the decision to evacuate has not been made lightly and is based on careful assessment and expert advice, with the safety of residents being at the forefront,” the update reads.

“At this time, all residents who are currently remaining within the community are strongly urged to reconsider and evacuate immediately. You are our friends, family and neighbours. Please stay safe.”

Elsewhere, an update from Alberta Wildfire said the blaze burning 16 kilometres southwest of Fort McMurray has reached 55 square kilometres in size, and fire risks range from very high to extreme across much of the northern part of the province.

And in its bulletin on Saturday, the Manitoba government said the fire near Flin Flon was about 30 square kilometres in size, adding help is on the way from outside the province. It said 10 crews from Ontario are scheduled to arrive in Manitoba next week, while Saskatchewan is assisting with fire suppression through the use of air tankers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2024.

Share this story:

16
-15
Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x