Some 25,000 Canadians have been forced to flee their homes as 103 wildfires flared across Alberta province, burning in what a top official said on Saturday was an “unprecedented situation.”
Thousands more have been told to be ready to leave on a moment’s notice.
The Canadian province — one of the world’s largest oil-producing regions — “has been experiencing a hot, dry spring and with so much kindling, all it takes is a few sparks to ignite some truly frightening wildfires,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith told a news conference.
“These conditions have resulted in the unprecedented situation our province is facing today.”
Smith said some 122,000 hectares (301,000 acres) had burned so far.
Almost all of Alberta — which is in the midst of an election — and much of neighboring Saskatchewan province as well as a large swath of the Northwest Territories face extreme fire risks, according to a federal government fire danger map.
Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair tweeted that Ottawa stood ready to provide federal assistance, if needed.
Oil sands facilities were closely monitoring the dangers, but none have reported any production disruptions.
Drayton Valley with 7,000 residents — about 140 kilometers (85 miles) west of Edmonton — was among the communities evacuated as firefighters battled an out-of-control blaze.
Some 550 kilometers (340 miles) north of the provincial capital, a severe fire consumed 20 homes, a general store and a police station in the community of Fox Lake. Residents were evacuated by boat and by helicopter.
Residents of the town of Edson, which has a population of more than 8,000, have also been ordered to “evacuate immediately.”
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