High Level wildfire grows to nearly half the size of 2016 Fort McMurray blaze
Cillian O'Brien and Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, June 1, 2019 4:18PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, June 1, 2019 11:26PM EDT
At least 10 wildfires are burning out of control in Alberta, and the massive blaze that has forced the evacuation of High Level is nearing half the size of the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.
The Chuckegg Creek fire near High Level has grown to approximately 280,000 hectares, up from 237,000 hectares on Thursday, according to provincial officials. The devastating Fort McMurray wildfire consumed 589,000 hectares.
About 14 homes in the Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement were destroyed by the fire. No homes or businesses have been damaged in High Level, but the risk remains, according to Saturday’s update.
Fire information officer Claire Allen told CTV Edmonton that the main battleground remains in the Paddle Prairie area, but that could change.
“The winds have been switching direction every single day,” she said.
In its Saturday update, the province noted that thunderstorms
SLAVE LAKE FIRES
Several out-of-control fires continue to burn near Slave Lake. The largest two were estimated at 155,968 hectares and 55,579 hectares on Saturday.
“Overall these wildfires experienced minimal growth yesterday,” the government said Saturday.
Evacuations have been ordered for the Trout Lake Community, Chipewyan Lakes, the Hamlet of Wabasca, Bigstone Cree Nation and Marten Beach as a result of the blazes.
Slave Lake is not considered to be in imminent danger, but residents are being asked to prepare to evacuate on short notice.
The military has put two CH-146 Griffons on standby, ready to assist with evacuations if needed.
Soldiers based out of CFB Edmonton are prepared to move on eight hours of notice, according to Canadian Joint Operations Command Headquarters.
“The trigger to deploy air assets as well as Regular Force and Reserve Force soldiers is dependent on where the Province identifies the need,” a Canadian Forces spokesperson told CTV News.
CLIMATE CHANGE LINK?
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said that a number of factors, including climate change, have contributed to the dire forest fires over the last two weeks.
"We have huge patches of very old, boreal forest where there have not been fires for, in some cases, 80 or 90 years,” he said. “All of the forestry experts will tell you that these regions of Alberta have been overdue for a major forest fire and our forests have been growing older."
Earlier Friday, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale linked climate change to the wildfires and recent floods in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
"This is one of the obvious manifestations of climate change," Goodale said in Regina. "A few weeks ago the issue was flooding in many parts of Canada and now the issue is wildfires."
WILDFIRES VISIBLE FROM SPACE
NASA featured a view of Canada from space in a tweet on Saturday that shows the extent of the blaze.
“Smoke from several large wildfires in Canada was so thick and widespread that it was easily visible from 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth,” NASA wrote in an accompanying news release.
“The intense burning fueled pyrocumulus clouds, which lofted smoke high into the atmosphere and allowed high-level, fast-moving winds to transport it long distances.”
With elevated concentrations of particulate matter in the smoky air across much of Alberta, citizens encountered gloomy, reddish skies, NASA wrote.
The infernos have created a blanket of smoke and reduced the air quality in large parts of western Canada and in some parts of the U.S.
According to a special air quality advisory issued by Environment Canada on May 31, people in parts of northern, central, and southern Alberta faced poor air quality and reduced visibility.
“Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches, or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk,” the agency noted.