Out-of-control wildfire in northeastern Alberta believed to be 67 hectares

Click to play video: 'Lessons learned from 2016 applied to wildfire near Fort McMurray'
Lessons learned from 2016 applied to wildfire near Fort McMurray
It’s dry, windy and warming up in Alberta, which has led to wildfires sparking across the province, including up near Fort McMurray. As Breanna Karstens-Smith explains, officials and fire crews are applying lessons learned from the 2016 inferno to try and prevent a repeat disaster – Apr 22, 2024

A wildfire is burning out of control in northeastern Alberta, approximately 4.5 kilometres east of Saprae Creek Estates in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

The fire is approximately 67 hectares in size, according to Alberta Wildfire, which is about 166 acres.

“The western flank of the fire is about 4.5 kilometres from Saprae Creek Estates, which is the closest community there,” said Emily Smith, a wildfire information officer with Alberta Wildfire.

An Alberta evacuation alert that was issued Sunday afternoon remains in place for Saprae Creek Estates due to the potential of the wildfire spreading towards the community.

That means residents in that community must be prepared to leave on short notice.

Click to play video: 'Global News Hour at 6 Edmonton: Sunday, April 21, 2024'
Global News Hour at 6 Edmonton: Sunday, April 21, 2024

In an update Monday, the municipality said Alberta Wildfire has prioritized the wildfire, officially named MWF-012, with aerial and ground resources.

Story continues below advertisement

Alberta Wildfire officials said, as of Monday morning, there were four firefighting crews, six helicopters, two airtanker groups, and five heavy equipment groups working on the MWF-012 wildfire.

On Sunday, crews worked on strengthening the fire guard along the western flank of the fire, with the goal of containing and then controlling it.

“Last night we had a night visibility machine, which is a helicopter that can fly at night and do nighttime firefighting operations,” Smith said. “We had that running last night and early into the morning.

“The fire seemed to be responding to those operations so we were happy to see that,” she said, adding the plan is to use the nighttime helicopter again Monday night.

Click to play video: 'Alberta begins 2024 weekly wildfire updates'
Alberta begins 2024 weekly wildfire updates

On Monday, two airtanker groups will lay down more fire retardant along the western flank of the wildfire, Alberta Wildfire said.

Story continues below advertisement

“As the day goes on, we are expecting around 4 p.m. we could have some crossover conditions,” Smith said. “What that means is the relative humidity is expected to be lower than the average temperature. So, when we experience crossover conditions, that can be conducive to extreme wildfire behaviour.”

Get the day's top news, political, economic, and current affairs headlines, delivered to your inbox once a day.

Get daily National news

Get the day's top news, political, economic, and current affairs headlines, delivered to your inbox once a day.
By providing your email address, you have read and agree to Global News' Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Officials across Canada have been warning of an early and severe start to wildfire season.

“This is unusual, I would say,” Smith said. “We are seeing really high fine-fuel moisture code indexes. Currently, it’s about 93, which is considered to be extreme. Fine fuels are typically grass and very small fuel, so that means that the grass is very dry and is often very wind-driven,” she explained. “That’s why we’re seeing such a quick spread.”

RCMP officers are restricting non-essential personnel from entering Saprae Creek Estates other than people who live there.

Story continues below advertisement

Alberta Wildfire said the wildfire danger is very high in the Fort McMurray Forest Area and a fire advisory is in effect.

Since Jan. 1, 2024, there have been 12 wildfires in the Fort McMurray Forest Area. All but two, MWF-010 and MWF-012, have been extinguished.

MWF-010 was discovered Sunday and is located in the Birch Mountains, near the corner of where the Fort McMurray Forest Area meets the Slave Lake Forest Area border and the High Level Forest Area border. It is classified as out of control and is approximately 53 hectares in size. Currently, firefighters are monitoring this wildfire, according to Alberta Wildfire.

There are currently four carryover wildfires burning in the Fort McMurray Forest Area. All of these wildfires are carryover fires from the 2023 wildfire season and are under control. They are being monitored.

The hamlet of Saprae Creek is located about 25 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray.

Click to play video: '‘Too close for comfort’: some Fort McMurray residents on edge over fire near homes'
‘Too close for comfort’: some Fort McMurray residents on edge over fire near homes

In 2016, the Fort McMurray wildfire forced nearly 90,000 people in the region from their homes.

Story continues below advertisement

Mayor Sandy Bowman said experience changed the way the municipality handles fires.

“We attack them directly right away … We’re more proactive now. We attack a forest fire the same we would a house fire. Hit it with everything.”

Fort McMurray was the first FireSmart region in Canada. Bowman said Wood Buffalo started its preventative controlled burns last week, most recently in the Thickwood area, not close to this current wildfire.

“We’re ready for it. After the winter we had – low precipitation – this was kind of expected. We had a very dry spring. We’re anticipating six weeks of really hard work and being on top of it,” he said. “Last year we had dry conditions as well but with the early restrictions we put on … we seem to be in better shape than a lot of the province was. We’re hoping to kind of keep that momentum going this year.”

Click to play video: 'Mayor Melissa Blake reflects on Fort McMurray wildfire one year later'
Mayor Melissa Blake reflects on Fort McMurray wildfire one year later

Bowman said the evacuation alert for Saprae Creek Estates will remain until the nearby wildfire is under control.

Story continues below advertisement

“They are making some good progress. We’re just kind of mindful in the community of how everyone is reacting to it… how everyone is feeling in the community and kind of addressing that right now,” Bowman explained.

“We’re lucky in that way — not lucky but… we were one of the first fires in the province so we were actually the number-one priority in the province yesterday so we had a lot of support.

“We’ve got a lot of experience when it comes to forest fires and things of this nature up here. But we’re in a good position right now I think but that being said, things can change at a moment’s notice.”

For the latest information on this wildfire, including any updates on evacuation alerts, follow Alberta Emergency Alert, or follow the RMWB on X or Facebook.

Sponsored content