‘This fire is a monster’: Yellowhead officials, residents react to another evacuation

Click to play video: 'Edson residents forced to evacuate for 2nd time in 2 months due to wildfires'
Edson residents forced to evacuate for 2nd time in 2 months due to wildfires
WATCH: Edson, Alta., was evacuated in May due to the risk of further wildfire spread, with residents returning just days later. The township was left with a warning to be ready, and on Friday, once again, the town of nearly 8,000 was told to leave— making it their second evacuation in just one month. Mason DePatie reports – Jun 11, 2023

Edson resident Calvin Bootsman took a familiar drive to Edmonton after being evacuated again this year due to wildfires that have been ravaging the province for over a month.

Bootsman and his family are staying at the Edmonton Expo Centre, which has been set up again as an evacuation centre.

“We left at midnight, so the fire was about three kilometres from our place and we could actually see the orange glow and the flames. It was pretty stressful,” Bootsman recalled.

“It’s very stressful because you don’t know where you’re going. You don’t know if you’re going to sleep at all. We have two cats so they’re stuck in the car with us.”

The town of around 8,000 people was one of the first to be evacuated when wildfires started to spring up at the end of April. Residents were called back days later, only to be evacuated again, and now, for a third time.

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Alberta Wildfire said Saturday the fire complex near Edson is seeing significant growth — the fire itself is now more than 100,000 hectares in size and just two kilometres south of the town.

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“One finger of the fire travelled 30 kilometres in 24 hours. We can’t stay ahead of it. It’s just totally out of control,” said Wade Williams, the mayor of Yellowhead County.

“This fire is a monster. I’m not gonna sugar coat it,” said Kevin Zahara, Mayor of Edson. “Even will (all) these resources, it’s going to be a very big challenge with the weather conditions we have.”

On Friday, Alberta Wildfire said the hot, dry and windy conditions are contributing to the fire growth.

Zahara added that the province is sending more resources the community’s way and is asking residents to remain patient as it works to fight the fire as best it can.

“We do realize the impact this has on people,” Zahara said.

The District of Greenview is also battling these conditions and a fire to the south forced the community of Sweathouse to evacuate Friday morning. The municipality is running a reception centre in Valleyview for those affected.

Global News reached out to the Municipal District of Greenview but it was not available for comment.

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Alberta Wildfire said scattered showers are helping with the uptick in fire activity but it’s looking to the forecast for more assistance — a break in the weather evacuees are hoping for.

“We have a lot of possessions that can not be replaced and if anything happens to it, we’d be lost,” Bootsman said.

At one point, there were 13 separate fires burning in Yellowhead County, said Williams, adding that the last estimate says the county has lost close to 30 homes over the past six weeks.

“So far, the (new) fire has been dancing around our communities, but it’s only a matter of time,” Williams said.

There is currently no timeline for when displaced residents will be able to return home. But Zahara emphasized how important it is that anyone who is still in the area to leave immediately.

“This is no joke. There is a very high potential that Highway 16 will be closed because this wildfire may be coming south straight north, overtaking that highway and potentially homes and communities.”

— With files from Mason DePatie, Global News

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