Wildfires Ravage Alberta, Forcing Thousands to Evacuate as Climate Change Worsens Risk

Wildfires have been raging across the province of Alberta in western Canada, forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate their homes in recent days. As of 7 p.m. on Saturday, Alberta Wildfire listed 110 wildfires burning in the province – 32 of them out of control, while 22 are being held and 56 are under control. The latest evacuation orders issued on Friday night include parts of Strathcona County and the Town of Edson, while the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) says more than 24,000 have fled their homes.[0] The Alberta government has declared a provincial state of emergency as the out-of-control wildfires continue to spread, with over 100 currently burning in Alberta alone.

The fires have been fuelled by the same hot and dry conditions that have recently prompted smaller evacuation efforts in neighbouring provinces Saskatchewan and British Columbia.[1] The hot and dry spring has created an abundance of kindling, meaning all it takes is a few sparks to ignite some truly frightening wildfires. As our climate changes, experts warn that the frequency and intensity of wildfires will increase, with multiple studies showing that human-caused climate change is a key driver behind increased wildfire risk.[2]

The wildfires have destroyed homes, businesses, and infrastructure across the province, with the Fox Lake fire in northern Alberta reaching 16,390 hectares and destroying a store, a local RCMP station and 20 homes.[3] Some residents in the community of Fox Lake had to be evacuated by helicopters, according to Christie Tucker, Alberta Wildfire’s information unit manager.[4] The province has requested help from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre and from partners in the United States, with firefighters from Quebec and British Columbia arriving on Saturday.[5]

The Alberta government has declared a state of emergency, providing the provincial government with a higher level of intergovernmental coordination by working with municipalities, organizations and businesses to support evacuated residents. Premier Danielle Smith visited evacuees at the Edmonton Expo Centre on Sunday morning, and has stated that she is willing to provide any insight from her past experience with the Fort McMurray wildfire crisis in 2016.[6] The situation remains challenging, with ongoing smoke and fire conditions preventing a full assessment of property losses.[6]

The unprecedented wildfires in Alberta serve as a stark reminder of just how unpredictable and powerful wildfires can be, and the urgent need for climate action to prevent further devastating consequences.

0. “Alberta Wildfires: Provincial State of Emergency declared as evacuations spread to Strathcona County, Edson” Edmonton Journal, 4 May. 2023, https://edmontonjournal.com/news/crime/alberta-wildfires-evacuations-now-include-parts-of-strathcona-county-edson

1. “Alberta officials hoping cooler weather and showers slow wildfires” The Globe and Mail, 7 May. 2023, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-alberta-officials-hoping-cooler-weather-and-showers-slow-wildfires-2/

2. “Western Canada wildfires: Alberta declares emergency as 29,000 evacuate” Axios, 8 May. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/05/08/canada-wildfires-evacuations-alberta-british-columbia

3. “More than 24,000 people evacuated in western Canada as 103 wildfires burn” NBC News, 6 May. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/13000-people-evacuated-western-canada-92-wildfires-burn-rcna83203

4. “Almost 25000 people in Western Canada evacuated as wildfires rage across region amid hot weather and high winds” KAKE, 6 May. 2023, https://www.kake.com/story/48862437/almost-25000-people-in-western-canada-evacuated-as-wildfires-rage-across-region-amid-hot-weather-and-high-winds

5. “Alberta is on fire: The wildfire situation Sunday and where to find evacuation orders and alerts” Global News, 5 May. 2023, https://globalnews.ca/news/9675857/alberta-wildfires-may-2023/

6. “Close to 30,000 people now displaced as Alberta continues battling wildfires” CBC.ca, 7 May. 2023, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-wildfires-environment-weather-extreme-1.6835352