Parkland County wildfires prompt local state of emergency, evacuations

Dozens of people displaced by wildfires west of Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: Dozens of people have been displaced by wildfires burning west of Edmonton in Parkland County and on Paul First Nation. As Sarah Kraus reports, there’s no word yet on when residents forced to leave because of the threat there, can return home.

EDMONTON – Evacuated Parkland County residents were temporarily allowed back in their homes Tuesday, after Mayor Rod Shaigec declared a local state of emergency Monday when wildfires forced evacuations west of Edmonton.

Update as of Wednesday:

  • The state of local emergency declared April 18 remains in effect;
  • The evacuation order for Duffield and Duffield Downs was lifted the evening of April 19;
  • The prepare-to-evacuate alerts for Clear Lake subdivision and Spruce Ridge Properties were also lifted;
  • The fire is contained and there was no new growth overnight;
  • Air quality monitoring was established on April 18 in Duffield;
  • The Alberta Emergency Management Agency’s mobile command centre is offering support;
  • One tool shed was lost to fire, but no homes impacted.

About 40 or so Duffield residents boarded buses Tuesday morning in order to gather clothes, medicine, pets and other things they might not have been able to take Monday.

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Global Edmonton reporter Sarah Kraus was on the buses and documented the process on Twitter.

Officials in Parkland County issued a mandatory evacuation alert Tuesday for residents of the Hamlet of Duffield and the Duffield Downs subdivision. About 80 homes were evacuated.

“Prepare-to-evacuate” alerts were issued for residents of the Clear Lake and Spruce Ridge Properties subdivisions.

Both the evacuation alert and prepare-to-evacuate alert were lifted Wednesday.

About 50 firefighters from Parkland County, Strathcona County, Yellowhead County, the Agriculture Forestry Department and Edmonton were called in to assist with the blaze. Six helicopters were also used Tuesday to get the “priority areas” under control then shift to the body of the fire, McKerry said.

There was no imminent threat to any homes in Parkland County, McKerry said, adding the homes were evacuated as a safety precaution.

Dozens of displaced residents were put up in area hotels Monday night, including Jason Klapstein and his girlfriend Jamie. They live in the Duffield Downs subdivision.

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Both were at work Monday afternoon when a friend texted Klapstein to say evacuations were happening. He tried to return home, but encountered a road block.

“The two dogs were still in the house and the horses are out in the field, so it was about four or five hours of waiting and then they let the cops go in and get the dogs for us.”

The couple was among the evacuees who gathered at the Manly Hall reception centre Tuesday.

Klapstein hoped to be able to return home later Tuesday afternoon to tend to the horses, as well as pick up medications and gather some clothes.


WATCH: Dry conditions cause serious issues across Alberta

Dry conditions lead to grass fires east and west of Edmonton
Dry conditions lead to grass fires east and west of Edmonton

“At this time we’ve told people to anticipate they’ll be out of their homes for 72 hours,” Shaigec said on Monday. The county said on Facebook Tuesday morning that the situation remained unchanged.

The mayor said resources were scarce as there were also other fires in the area, including on the Paul First Nation, but that municipalities who are not battling wildfires were offering their help.

Wildfire information officer Matthew Anderson said while the hot, dry conditions aren’t unusual, fires are just breaking out a bit earlier than they’re used to. Last year around this time Alberta had seen 106 fires and right now the province is sitting at 157.

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“We’re looking at the forecast and things are going to continue to be hot and dry so I would expect things to continue to peak, but it looks like there’s some precipitation in the long-range forecast which will hopefully bring a bit of relief,” Anderson said.

WATCH: Dozens of people are out of their homes, or ready to leave, due to a wildfire west of Edmonton, in Parkland County. Some residents were allowed to temporarily return home Tuesday morning to grab personal belongings and pets. Sarah Kraus has more from the evacuation centre.

Dozens of Parkland County residents forced out of their homes due to wildfire
Dozens of Parkland County residents forced out of their homes due to wildfire

“We’re well staffed and prepared for this. This is what the guys do. Right now we have about 650 firefighters throughout the province, about 50 helicopters and a couple air tankers. There will be more coming on by the end of the week.”


READ MORE: ‘The fear is how dry will it get’: Lesser Slave Lake fire chief on Alberta’s tinder-dry conditions

Duffield is located five kilometres south of Highway 16, 30 kilometres west of Spruce Grove and approximately 65 kilometres west of Edmonton.

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Parkland School Division no. 70 said Duffield students will attend their classes at Seba Beach School due to the smoky conditions “and in order to avoid any scenarios where a sudden evacuation may take place.”

“Students will be bused directly to and from Seba Beach School for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week.”

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Friday, April 22 is a PD day with no school scheduled for students.

On Sunday, Parkland County evacuated the subdivision of Edinburgh Park while fire crews attended a fire along the south and east edges of Duffield.

READ MORE: Parkland County subdivision evacuated by brush fire 

For the latest evacuation information, visit Alberta Emergency Alerts online.

There were 37 wildfires burning in Alberta – two were listed as out of control – as of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Visit the government of Alberta’s website for the very latest information on the wildfire status across Alberta and the current fire ban situation.

You can also download the Alberta Wildfire app for Android and Apple for real-time updates on the fire conditions across the province.