The province of Alberta in western Canada faces an increased risk of spreading wildfires as tinder-dry weather and shifting winds persist, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes. The provincial government reports approximately 90 active wildfires in Alberta, with 23 of them currently out of control. At the peak of the fires, over 30,000 people were displaced, while oil and gas producers had to shut down around 319,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, accounting for 3.7% of national production.
Evacuation orders and alerts have also been issued in neighboring British Columbia, where approximately 60 wildfires are currently active. The BC wildfire service stated that sustained winds from the north have caused aggressive fire behavior in the North Peace Region.
Although temperatures are expected to cool down in the coming days, the wildfires continue to have a profound impact on the lives of residents. Judy Levesque, a resident of Drayton Valley in central Alberta, recalled the night of May 4 when ash rained down and made her realize the fire was approaching dangerously close to her home. Soon after, evacuation orders were issued, prompting Levesque, her family, and their pets to flee to a relative’s place in Leduc, south of Edmonton.
Days later, Levesque saw a picture of her devastated home, with only the chimney remaining intact. While a cold front bringing gusty northwest winds is expected, little rain is anticipated, posing challenges for firefighters as the fire’s path may suddenly change.
The Canadian military and firefighters from across Canada and the United States have joined forces to combat the blazes. For residents like Levesque, the loss of irreplaceable items, including her grandmother’s watch and a necklace from her late sister, weighs heavily. However, she remains resilient, expressing plans to rebuild and a determination to approach the situation positively.
“We will build better,” Levesque said, fighting back tears. “We planned to renovate, so now we get to do it quicker. That’s the attitude we have to have because it’s too sad the other way.”