June 3, 2015 1:36 pm
Updated: June 3, 2015 2:04 pm

39 wildfires burning in Alberta; province-wide fire ban lifted

Alberta Wildfire's helibase at the Burnt Lake wildfire north of Cold Lake, June 1, 2015.

Courtesy: Facebook/Alberta Wildfire Info

EDMONTON —  The province removed the fire ban in central and western portions of Alberta effective 4 p.m. Tuesday. A fire restriction is now in place in parts of northern Alberta. That means, safe wood camp fires will be allowed in campgrounds, but any other camp fires in backcountry areas or in backyards remain restricted until wildfire conditions improve.

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As of Wednesday morning, there were 39 fires burning in the province. Of those, just four were out-of-control. Twenty-two were under control, 12 were being held and one was turned over. A total of 49,490 hectares have burned since April 1.

Main efforts are being focused on an out-of-control fire that continues to rage on the air weapons range at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake.

Firefighters have contained a major blaze north of Conklin in the northeast.

Other wildfires are burning in remote areas south of the Northwest Territories boundary. Wildfire officer Richard Horne says weather conditions have improved, but the province is not lowering its guard.

The wildfire hazard dropped slightly in Alberta Monday thanks to the precipitation and higher humidity levels, according to the province. However warmer temperatures later this week could raise the fire risk back up again.

READ MORE: Workers returning to Alberta oilsands operation after fire-related evacuation 

MEG Energy Corp. said Wednesday its Christina Lake oilsands operation in northeastern Alberta is getting back to normal following a precautionary evacuation last week due to a forest fire.

The fire continues to burn about 20 kilometres from MEG’s operations but provincial authorities have told the company it’s being held under control.

Contractors and staff are expected to return to the oilsands operation in stages over several days.

Travellers heading to the Fort McMurray airport were asked to check their schedules ahead of time.

Two new wildfires sprung up just east of Fort McMurray Saturday. Some residents in the area were put on alert because a road in and out of Saprae Creek was at risk. However, on Sunday, that fire – southeast of Saprae Creek – was classified as being held at 10 hectares and wasn’t expected to grow under the current conditions.

On Tuesday, fire officials said the fire near Saprae Creek was under control.

The sweeping province-wide fire ban was amended Friday and no longer includes southern Alberta forests. There are still multiple fire bans in place across Alberta. The province’s map of Alberta shows approximately 70 per cent of the province is still under a fire ban.

However, the wildfire outlook for Alberta continues to be severe, and residents are asked to respect the fire bans and fire restrictions that may be in place for some municipalities, parks and other areas.

For an updated list of fire bans in Alberta, click here.

There are about 1,700 firefighters, 159 helicopters and 28 air tankers positioned across the province to battle fires. An additional 37 firefighters are arriving from B.C. Friday.

All evacuation orders have been lifted and reception centres are closed.

Close to 5,000 residents — including those forced out of the Wabasca and Lesser Slave River areas — have returned home.

The voluntary evacuations at Cenovus and CNRL sites near the Cold Lake fire remain in effect.

The Air Quality Advisory issued by AHS on May 25 for the Cold Lake area remains in effect.

The City of Edmonton downgraded its fire ban – which was issued on May 20 – to a fire restriction Tuesday. The restriction prohibits open burning as well as the use of fireworks. However, Edmontonians will now be able to use their BBQs, cooking stoves and backyard fire pits provided they meet all the requirements of the firepit bylaw.

With files from The Canadian Press

© 2015 Shaw Media

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