Dozens of Alberta wildfires force more than 24,000 to flee, send smoke to Northeast

At last count, 79 active wildfires were burning in Alberta, with 26 considered still out of control, sending plumes of smoke across much of Canada and even into New York and New England.

EDMONTON, Alberta Dozens of wildfires continued to rage across Alberta Tuesday, sending thousands fleeing as firefighters worked tirelessly to contain the flames.

At last count, 79 active wildfires were burning, with 26 considered still out of control, according to Alberta Wildfire. So far, for the entire year, fires have burned more than 390,000 hectares (964,000 acres). There are no reports of any injuries, but there are reports of 20 homes and a police station destroyed in the town of Fox Lake, according to the Associated Press.


As of Tuesday afternoon, 12 evacuation orders were in place, covering just over 24,000 people, said Colin Blair of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency during a news conference. The number of evacuees is down from 29,000 on Monday.

About 11,000 were registered at local evacuation centers. In addition, 300 patients at four hospitals and long-term medical facilities threatened by flames were safely moved to other medical facilities outside the danger zone.

About 700 firefighters were battling the fires, with Alberta requesting an additional 1,000 firefighters from neighboring provinces, said Christine Tucker of Alberta Wildfire.

Alberta has declared a province-wide state of emergency, while 17 local areas have also declared emergencies. Meanwhile, some of the province's oil-producing facilities have had to shutter due to threatening wildfires, leading to a 3.7% drop in Canada's oil production, according to Reuters.

"There is no question that this is a challenging time," Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Monday. "Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes and their jobs. They’re leaving behind all they own, wondering if they will lose everything that they’ve worked for."

Wildfires send smoke into Northeast

With dozens of large wildfires burning, smoke has been pouring out of Alberta and carried north and east with the prevailing winds.

Satellite imagery from late Monday showed thick smoke flowing from Hudson Bay, across Ontario and Quebec and into New York and New England.

It's made for some colorful, smoky sunsets and sunrises in the Northeast.

The smoke is traveling around a ridge of high pressure anchored in the heart of Canada, sending smoke far north into the Canadian Arctic before swinging back southeast toward New England.

But the smoke has remained elevated, and air quality near the surface remained in the "good" category in the Northeast.

Weather briefly giving Alberta firefighters a break

While Alberta has been wilting under an extended hot and dry period, the weather over the past day or two has cooled, with lighter winds and even a few light scattered showers.


"This is giving firefighters a helping hand, causing less active wildfire, allowing them to work on parts of wildfires they hadn’t been able to access before," Tucker said. "It's a much-needed chance to make progress on some of these powerful, challenging wildfires."

But she cautioned they are not out of the woods yet as hotter weather was forecast for the weekend with a potential shift in wind directions, which may alter current firefighting tactics.

Several fire bans remain in effect for much of the region, prohibiting any open wood fires either on public or private property, including backyards.