Province-wide fire ban amended; 39 fires still burn
Sunday, May 31, 2015, 7:09 PM - Though major wildfires continue to burn out of control in Alberta, firefighters have gained enough ground to allow most evacuees to return home and have made a lot of ground in extinguishing several of the blazes.
Although the provincial fire ban was lifted Friday afternoon, fire bans remain in place for numerous areas in Alberta.
Environment Canada issued severe thunderstorm watches along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border Sunday evening.
LATEST DETAILS FROM THE PROVINCE OF ALBERTA
Slave Lake Management Area Wildfire Update, issued May 31
- The Slave Lake wildfire Management Area received moderate precipitation over the last 24 hours which has reduced fire hazard to moderate. Fire ban still in effect for this area
- There are currently seven wildfires in the area and they are all considered to be under control
- About 1,200 hectares have been burned during this fire season in the Slave Lake area
- In the province there are currently 39 wildfires burning: five are out of control, six are being held, 27 are under control, and one has been turned over to the appropriate party
- About 46,400 hectares have been burned in the province during this fire season
Thousands of people were forced from their homes in northern and central Alberta due to the wildfires, but many are now in the process of returning, including all residents from the Hamlet of Wabasca, to the northeast of Slave Lake.
Most residents of the nearby Big Stone Cree First Nation would also be allowed home, except around 200. Another evacuation order for people along the Old Smith highway, southeast of Slave Lake, was also lifted, allowing around 300 residents to return home.
Smoke continues to affect northerly regions. On Wednesday, Alberta Health Services issued Precautionary Air Quality Advisories across the north of the province and the Edmonton area. "Although minor smoke conditions do not typically cause health concerns in healthy individuals, if smoke conditions become more severe, even healthy individuals may experience temporary irritation of eyes and throat, and possibly shortness of breath," reads the official statement.
It is the single largest fire burning in the province.
At least one person has been killed fighting that blaze so far: a 38-year-old air tanker pilot whose plane went down on Saturday. The crash site's remote location and weather conditions delayed recovery of the body until Monday, according to The Canadian Press.
The fire has threatened the province's oil sands production in that part of the province. Hundreds of oil workers have been evacuated, and Bloomberg News reports around 10 per cent of Canada's oil output has been dormant for the last three days due to the fires, amounting to around 230,000 barrels a day.
Image: Government of Alberta
The Alberta government instituted a province-wide fire ban for forested areas on Monday.
All open fires, including campfires, are prohibited. Portable propane fire pits and gas or propane stoves and barbecues designed for cooking or heating are allowed.
The Canadian Press reports this is the first full ban since 2011, when major wildfires destroyed about a third of the town of Slave Lake.
Some of this year's major wildfires are burning near the town, but Alberta Wildfire Info reports they are not threatening it at this time.
That's not fog, it's a thick blanket of smoke over Lethbridge thanks to forest fires in northern Alberta. pic.twitter.com/D8WIdqKAFE— Pat Siedlecki (@radiopat258) May 28, 2015
OPEN FIRES BANNED ACROSS SASKATCHEWAN'S FORESTS
Cooler temperatures and rain have helped improve the wildfire situation across the province.
A fire ban remains in place for parts of northern Saskatchewan, including all open fires and fireworks have been banned in area forests due to extreme wildfire hazards in the region.
The south, on the other hand, is in for a significant cool down. Frost advisories were issued for Prince Albert, Meadow Lake, Melfort, Humboldt and Regina on Saturday morning.
As of Sunday, 263 fires have been seen in the province so far this year, almost 100 more than had burned at this time in 2014.
With files from Cheryl Santa Maria, Leeanna McLean and Katie Jones.
WATCH BELOW: Deb Matejicka looks for fire hot spots in Wabasca