All evacuation orders lifted as dozens of wildfires continue to burn across Alberta

WATCH ABOVE: Wildfire information officer Geoffrey Driscoll, Scott Long with Alberta Emergency Management and Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier update the fire situation in Alberta.

EDMONTON — As of 10:05 a.m. Friday, there were 42 fires burning in the province. Of those, six were out-of-control, 28 were under control and seven were being held. A total of 41,487 hectares have burned.

Tuesday night, the evacuation orders put in place for those near the Old Smith Highway in Lesser Slave River and the Hamlet of Wabasca were lifted.

The provincial operations centre is currently at Level 4. Recent incidents that were that high were the flooding in High River and the 2011 fire in Slave Lake. Over 150 firefighters from across Canada will arrive in Alberta over the next few days to support firefighters here.

Wildfires forced a total of about 5,000 people from their homes but officials don’t believe any houses have been lost.

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More than 1,700 firefighters are battling wildfires across Alberta. Another 150 firefighters are expected to arrive over the next couple of days. Eighty-nine of those men and women will be coming from B.C. The rest of them are coming from Ontario, Nova Scotia, Price Edward Island and New Brunswick.

“These men and women are doing an excellent job working very hard in a challenging and stressful situation. I want to take a moment to thank those people,” said Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier.

On Tuesday, Wildfire information officer Geoffrey Driscoll said there were three fires of concern: the one burning 10 kilometres away from the hamlet of Wabasca, one burning 22 kilometres east of Slave Lake, and one 40 kilometres northwest of Cold Lake.

Wabasca Fire

The evacuation order was lifted at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday for all residents of the Hamlet of Wabasca.  At 9:20 a.m. on Wednesday, the mandatory evacuation order for Bigstone Cree Nations A, B, and D was also lifted. The mandatory evacuation order for the Bigstone Cree Nation C area was lifted at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

A post on the MD of Opportunity said the hazard presented by the wildfire had been reduced and that RCMP would organize re-entry for Wabasca residents.

A total of 4,700 Wabasca Hamlet and Reserve residents had been forced from the area several days ago.  A state of local emergency remained in effect Wednesday for the Municipal District of Opportunity, which is about 330 kilometres north of Edmonton.

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Reception centres in Calling Lake and in the Town of Athabasca remain open on Wednesday to serve meals throughout the day.

As of 9:16 p.m. Wednesday, the fire was listed as under control. Firefighters, helicopters and equipment continue to fight the fire.

SCARS was in Wabasca Tuesday to feed and water animals found outside homes.

Driscoll said this fire was likely human-caused.

READ MORE: Residents near North Wabasca Lake once again forced from homes 

WATCH: Wabasca residents have been allowed to return home. Jessica Kent reports.

Lesser Slave River Fire

The evacuation order for the area around Old Smith Highway in Lesser Slave River was lifted around 5:40 Tuesday evening. The RCMP has a plan in place to organize re-entry over the next 24 hours. Residents were allowed back into the area, but those due south of the fire were to remain on a 30-minute evacuation order.

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Residents were asked not to disable or remove any sprinklers installed near their properties.

Just after 5 p.m. Monday, a critical alert was issued for the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River.

The province said a serious fire was affecting urban homes and businesses on the Old Smith Highway. All residents 15 kilometers on either side of Mortonville were being told to evacuate, go to the MD office, where accommodations will be arranged. The MD said about 300 people from roughly 62 homes and businesses were evacuated from the area.

A reception centre was set up in the Hamlet of Smith.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Monday the MD of Lesser Slave River declared a State of Local Emergency along the highway. The situation improved overnight.

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For the latest updates on fire alerts from the province, click here.

“According to the MD, the community members are still evacuated but we are anticipating a lot of good work on the ground by our firefighters today (Tuesday),” said Lane.

“There is a little bit of relief forecast in the weather so hopefully  we can take advantage of that.”

WATCH: Our Global crew flew in a helicopter above the Lesser Slave River fire near Old Smith Highway.

“At this time, we’re pleased to announce there’s been no structural damage to any of the properties folks have evacuated from,” said Allan Winarski, director of emergency services for the MD of Lesser Slave River, on Tuesday.

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“We do want to watch the fire behaviour and make sure we’re not just re-evacuating them again. So we’ll ask for their patience as we go about determining when exactly they can go back to their homes.”

For updates from the MD click here.

Click here to view the latest Wildfire Status Map.

Some rural homes about 20 kilometres northeast of Slave Lake were evacuated later Monday but officials said the town was not in the path of the blaze.

“Just over 1600 fire fighters that are working right now, and if we do need more fire fighters, we will be putting the call out across Canada and North America to our partners to bring in more support,” said Lane.

READ MORE: Ontario firefighters to help Alberta crews battle wildfires 

Cold Lake Fire

Fire officials said Wednesday night this fire was still out-of-control, burning 40 kilometres northwest of Cold Lake.

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There are currently about 250 firefighters battling the blaze, as well heavy equipment, 17 helicopters and air tankers.

By 9:30 Wednesday night, the large wildfire burning on the Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake had grown to nearly 20,000 hectares.

According to a post on the Alberta Wildfire Information Facebook page, the fire was active on the northwest and southwest corners.

“It’s close to some oil and gas facilities in that area. It’s not threatening those facilities but it is threatening the road that is going to those facilities,” said Driscoll. “There’s only one road in and one road out.

“We recommended and the companies decided to evacuate those areas.”

Two oil sites, Cenovus and Canadian National Resrouces Limited, voluntarily evacuated 2,000 workers in accordance with emergency response plans. The companies also activated shut-in procedures, basically making facilities as safe as possible.

Since the fire is in the area of the Cold Lake Weapons Range, an air health advisory was issued by AHS. The entire area of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range was closed to the public.

Conklin Fire

The fire – which was about 1,900 hectares in size Wednesday night – is listed as out of control.

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Firefighters and heavy equipment were used to battle the blaze Monday, but were pulled off for safety reasons. Later in the day, the fire attack continued from the air. Things settled overnight and winds were coming from the north-northwest pushing southeast on Tuesday.

A potential risk from forest fires northwest of the company’s facilities in the Christina Lake region forced MEG Energy to move non-essential staff and contractors off site Tuesday.

“Safety is absolutely paramount,” said Jamey Fitzgibbon, senior VP of MEG’s Christina Lake operations. “As a precautionary measure, we have temporarily suspended operations, including our planned maintenance turnaround. As soon as we have safety clearance regarding fire hazards, we will resume normal operations.”

After flying over the fire to assess the safety risk, company representatives saw significant amounts of smoke drifting into Conklin, but not a lot of flames. They sent photos of the scene to SRD.

The evacuation included close to 900 staff. MEG Energy secured some hotel accommodations for those who don’t live in Edmonton.

Fort McMurray Fire

The wildfires in northeastern Alberta are forcing additional evacuations from oilsands sites.

Statoil Canada is voluntarily removing non-essential staff from its Leismer project south of Fort McMurray.

Spokesman Peter Symons says Leismer is continuing to churn out oil, but only about 30 of the project’s 185 workers are staying.

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WATCH: Hot, dry conditions are making it difficult for Alberta firefighters. Several communities have been evacuated. Fletcher Kent has more.

Fire Ban

A province-wide full fire ban to Alberta’s forests came into effect at noon on Monday, May 25. The ban comes as continuing hot, dry weather has raised the wildfire hazard to high, very high or extreme over most of Alberta.

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The province says it’s the first full ban since 2011, when fire destroyed about one-third of the town of Slave Lake.

The full fire ban prohibits all open fires, including camp fires in camp grounds or back country and random camping areas. The ban includes charcoal briquettes. However, portable propane fire pits and gas or propane stoves and barbecues designed for cooking or heating are allowed.

All fire permits are suspended or cancelled and no new fire permits will be issued.

READ MORE: Wildfire limits ability of investigators to reach scene of Alberta plane crash 

The fire ban applies to the province’s Forest Protection Area (FPA).


Other jurisdictions outside the FPA, including municipalities and provincial parks, may issue their own fire restrictions or bans.

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Albertans are asked to check daily for detailed information about restrictions and locations.

Hot, dry weather is forecast to continue for at least another week.

Since April 1 of this year, Alberta has experienced 629 wildfires that have burned 13,098 hectares.

To report a wildfire call 310-FIRE (310-3473).

With files from The Canadian Press