More than 100 wildfires raging across the Alberta region of Canada have forced more than 29,000 people to flee in what officials have called an “unprecedented situation” for the province.
In the past 24 hours alone, 16 new fires have ignited in Alberta, Wildfire Information Unit Lead Christie Tucker said during a Sunday evening news conference.
Firefighters across the province were battling 108 active wildfires, 31 of which were burning “out of control,” according to Tucker.
This type of ferocious wildfire activity isn’t typical this early in the year, and firefighters don’t usually see such a large area burned, Tucker said Sunday morning.
But bone-dry conditions, abnormally hot weather and high winds have converged to fuel this “really extreme wildfire activity,” Tucker said. “We could be sort of settling in for a long fight here,” she said.
Wildfires have burned a total of 375,000 hectares, about 926,000 acres, in Alberta so far this year, and recent blazes have burned a “huge amount of ground” over the last few days, Tucker said.
Additional firefighters and resources are heading to Alberta from across the country to battle the growing fires, and crews have already arrived from Quebec and Ontario to join the firefight, Tucker said.
Some gains were made Sunday as scattered showers across the province helped firefighters access areas they couldn’t before due to extreme wildfire behavior.
Firefighters now hope that cooler temperatures and higher humidity will help them battle the flames in the south and central part of the province — but challenging conditions remain in the northern part of the province, Tucker said.
“Up north, it’s still very dry. We’re still seeing winds and we are expecting a continuation of those kinds of conditions that can lead to extreme wildfire behavior,” she said in the Sunday evening news conference.