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Out-of-control wildfire in northeastern Alberta believed to be 67 hectares

A wildfire is burning out of control in northeastern Alberta, approximately 4.5 kilometres east of Saprae Creek Estates in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

The fire is approximately 67 hectares in size, according to Alberta Wildfire, which is about 166 acres.

“The western flank of the fire is about 4.5 kilometres from Saprae Creek Estates, which is the closest community there,” said Emily Smith, a wildfire information officer with Alberta Wildfire.

An Alberta evacuation alert that was issued Sunday afternoon remains in place for Saprae Creek Estates due to the potential of the wildfire spreading towards the community.

That means residents in that community must be prepared to leave on short notice.

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In an update Monday, the municipality said Alberta Wildfire has prioritized the wildfire, officially named MWF-012, with aerial and ground resources.

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Alberta Wildfire officials said, as of Monday morning, there were four firefighting crews, six helicopters, two airtanker groups, and five heavy equipment groups working on the MWF-012 wildfire.

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On Sunday, crews worked on strengthening the fire guard along the western flank of the fire, with the goal of containing and then controlling it.

“Last night we had a night visibility machine, which is a helicopter that can fly at night and do nighttime firefighting operations,” Smith said. “We had that running last night and early into the morning.

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“The fire seemed to be responding to those operations so we were happy to see that,” she said, adding the plan is to use the nighttime helicopter again Monday night.

On Monday, two airtanker groups will lay down more fire retardant along the western flank of the wildfire, Alberta Wildfire said.

“As the day goes on, we are expecting around 4 p.m. we could have some crossover conditions,” Smith said. “What that means is the relative humidity is expected to be lower than the average temperature. So, when we experience crossover conditions, that can be conducive to extreme wildfire behaviour.”

Officials across Canada have been warning of an early and severe start to wildfire season.

“This is unusual, I would say,” Smith said. “We are seeing really high fine-fuel moisture code indexes. Currently, it’s about 93, which is considered to be extreme. Fine fuels are typically grass and very small fuel, so that means that the grass is very dry and is often very wind-driven,” she explained. “That’s why we’re seeing such a quick spread.”

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RCMP officers are restricting non-essential personnel from entering Saprae Creek Estates other than people who live there.

Alberta Wildfire said the wildfire danger is very high in the Fort McMurray Forest Area and a fire advisory is in effect.

Since Jan. 1, 2024, there have been 12 wildfires in the Fort McMurray Forest Area. All but two, MWF-101 and MWF-012, have been extinguished.

MWF-010 was discovered Sunday and is located in the Birch Mountains, near the corner of where the Fort McMurray Forest Area meets the Slave Lake Forest Area border and the High Level Forest Area border. It is classified as out of control and is approximately 53 hectares in size. Currently, firefighters are monitoring this wildfire, according to Alberta Wildfire.

There are currently four carryover wildfires burning in the Fort McMurray Forest Area. All of these wildfires are carryover fires from the 2023 wildfire season and are under control. They are being monitored.

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The hamlet of Saprae Creek is located about 25 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray.

In 2016, the Fort McMurray wildfire forced nearly 90,000 people in the region from their homes.

For the latest information on this wildfire, including any updates on evacuation alerts, follow Alberta Emergency Alert, or follow the RMWB on X or Facebook.

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