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Wildfires prompt mandatory evacuations of Entwistle, Evansburg west of Edmonton

Click to play video: 'Parkland County wildfires prompts mandatory evacuations of Entwistle, Evansburg'
Parkland County wildfires prompts mandatory evacuations of Entwistle, Evansburg
Fueled by warm temperatures, high winds and extremely dry conditions, wildfires in both Parkland Countyand Yellowhead County west of Edmonton has prompted Entwistle and Evansburg to be evacuated. Sarah Ryan reports live from the area. – Apr 30, 2023

Fueled by warm weather, high winds and extremely dry conditions, several out-of-control wildfires have grown near Entwistle and Evansburg, and on Saturday night an evacuation order was issued for the communities west of Edmonton in Parkland County and Yellowhead County.

Just before 3 a.m. Sunday, Yellowhead County expanded its evacuation alert.

All residents in the Lobstick Resort and residents from Range Road 92 and from Township Road 542 to Township Road 550 in Yellowhead County must evacuate immediately, the county said.

All impacted residents must evacuate to the Wildwood Hall. Gather important documents, medication, and enough food and water to be away from home for at least three days. Take pets with you. Residents in the affected area can contact the Yellowhead County emergency information line at 1-833-334-4630.

(Scroll down for previous evacuation orders issued on Saturday.)

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Where are the fires?

One of the fires (WCU001) was just south of Highway 16, between Range Road 70 and 71. Due to high winds, the fire was quickly heading towards Entwistle and Evansburg.

Alberta Wildfire said it was detected Saturday and is located approximately nine kilometres southeast of Evansburg.

The province said it was helping Parkland County fight the flames with one airtanker and four firefighters were  responding to this wildfire, with more expected Sunday. As of 11 p.m., the estimated size was 200 hectares.

Late Saturday night, the flames grew and were visible from one of the evacaution centres, some 30 kilometres away in Wildwood.

Overnight, 511 Alberta said Highway 22 from Highway 624 to Entwistle, north of Drayton Valley, was closed and detours were in place.

Parkland County fire chief Brian Cornforth said conditions are very dry and the winds are aggressive.

He said the fire began around 2 p.m. Saturday and just four hours later they made the decision to evacuate Entwistle, which is home to about 500 people. Rural properties nearby were also evacuated.

“This fire was a probably about a two-hectare fire which quickly grew into a crown fire with the winds at 50 kilometres (per hour) out of the southeast,” he told Global News Saturday night.

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“And by crown fire, I mean, it’s working at the tops of the trees and jumping from tree-to-tree at the highest elevation of the trees.”

Air tankers and helicopters hauling water could be seen fighting the flames by golfers at the nearby Trestle Creek Golf Resort (more photos below).

Emergency crews fighting a wildfire near Trestle Creek Golf Resort in Parkland County on Saturday, April 29, 2023.
Emergency crews fighting a wildfire near Trestle Creek Golf Resort in Parkland County on Saturday, April 29, 2023. Courtesy: Anita Morgan

There were two other wildfires detected on Saturday to the north of Highway 16 in Yellowhead County that have since merged together into one.

One, called WCU002, was located east of Highway 22, three kilometres north of Highway 16.

The other (EWF017) was on both sides of Highway 22, and the province said it was an extension of WCU002. The fire was being assessed and as of Saturday night, was moving towards the west.

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Both wildfires combined are estimated to be 300 hectares in size.

EWF017 is currently burning on the west side of Highway 22, three kilometres north of Highway 16 (April 29, 2023 at 10 p.m.). Credit: Alberta Wildfire

Alberta Wildfire said overnight, a night operations helicopter with water bucketing capabilities will assist with all wildfires in the area.

EWF017 will have four pieces of heavy equipment working throughout the night.

On Sunday, 20 wildfire firefighters and other municipal agency firefighters will continue to work on these wildfires. They’ll be assisted with additional heavy equipment and two helicopters, the province said.

A wildfire (EWF017) burning to the northwest of Evansburg, Alta. Photo taken April 29, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. Credit: Alberta Wildfire

Evacuation orders

The orders to evacuate came fast Saturday evening as the wildfires grew, thick plumes of dark smoke filling the air and casting an eerie orange haze over the region.

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The first emergency alert was issued just after 6 p.m., telling people in Entwistle and the surrounding rural areas to get out.

The alert is in effect for everyone west of Range Road 65 near Entwistle.

Anyone to the east of the river on the Entwistle side was told to go to the Wildwood Recreation Complex or Wabamun Jubilee Hall and check in with reception.

An hour later, the neighbouring community of Evansburg, on the other side of the Pembina River from Entwistle, was put on alert to be ready to leave.

An hour after that around 8:15 p.m., Evansburg was also told to evacuate immediately. That community is home to about 800 people.

Click to play video: 'Emergency alert for Parkland County wildfire'
Emergency alert for Parkland County wildfire

Residents of Evansburg and anyone living west of the river was told to immediately head west to the Wildwood Recreation Complex or the Peers Multiplex.

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RCMP went door-to-door in the communities about an hour west of Edmonton, telling people to get out now.

The community of Entwistle was evacuated due to a wildfire on Saturday, April 29, 2023. Global News

“Gather important documents, medication, and enough food and water to be away from home for at least three days,” the emergency alerts said.

Evansburg RCMP said officers were assisting the fire department with a large grass fire.

On one side of the fire, the Yellowhead Highway westbound was shut down at Range Road 65 and on the other side, eastbound was closed at Range Road 75A but later moved further west to moved further west to Range Road 92A.

Residents were at one point being allowed past the blockade but only with identification proving they needed to get to their homes.

On the Evansburg side, no one was being let in, not even residents.

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A Global News crew on scene said the wind appears to have shifted and the fire north of the Yellowhead was now blowing towards the community.

Highway 16 was closed in Parkland County at Range Road 65 due to a wildfire near Entwistle on Saturday, April 29, 2023. Global News

511 Alberta said Highway 22 was closed from Highway 16 to Township Road 544 because of the wildfire.

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A fire ban was put into effect in Parkland County earlier in the week due to the conditions.

No outdoor fires are permitted until further notice, including screened fire pits, burn barrels/incinerators, recreational fire pits and charcoal briquette barbecues.

Only gas and propane appliances such as barbecues, stoves and fire pits are allowed.

Click to play video: 'Dry weather across Alberta increases wildfire, grassfire risk'
Dry weather across Alberta increases wildfire, grassfire risk

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

According to Alberta Wildfire, there are 47 active wildfires in their jurisdiction, 15 of which began in the past 24 hours.

Below: Photos from the wildfires.

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