Evacuation stands as wildfire west of Edmonton continues to grow

A wildfire west of Edmonton that triggered evacuation orders in parts of Yellowhead County on Tuesday continues to burn out of control and is expected to keep growing.

“We do expect fire activity to pick up today as temperatures rise,” Josee St.-Onge, a provincial wildfire information officer said in an interview Wednesday.

“The winds, thankfully, are not very strong today … but whenever we have that hot, dry weather, it’s always a concern.” 

Parts of Yellowhead County were placed under evacuation Tuesday as a wildfire north of Highway 16 moved south, encroaching on homes and farmland.

Around 50 people were forced from their homes, the county said in a statement Wednesday. 

‘A dynamic situation’

The fire continues to burn out of control nine kilometres northwest of Evansburg, north of Highway 16 and west of Highway 22. The wildfire crossed the Lobstick River on Tuesday but has not crossed Highway 16, which remains closed due to the encroaching flames. 

The fire was first noticed at 4 p.m. Tuesday when it  covered just two hectares.

Throughout the day, amid high winds, the fire continued to spread south, multiplying in size. 

As of Wednesday morning the fire had burned at least 181 hectares of land in the Edson Forest Area, having grown by around 40 hectares overnight. 

“At this time, the fire is not threatening any communities and we don’t have any reports of any injuries or properties that have been damaged. But that assessment is ongoing and it’s a dynamic situation, so that could change throughout the day,” St.-Onge said. 

Wildland fire crews worked through the night Tuesday attempting to build containment lines. A “perfect perimeter” was not constructed around the fire but good progress was made, St.-Onge said. 

On Wednesday, 32 firefighters, four helicopters and 11 pieces of heavy equipment were working the fire. Six air tankers have also been deployed, St.-Onge said, and are taking water from nearby Chip Lake in an attempt to stifle the “head of the fire.” 

Around 30 firefighters with the Yellowhead County are also on scene with 12 pieces of firefighting equipment. 

It’s unclear when evacuation orders will lift, St-Onge said.

The wildfire danger in the area is listed as very high and the forecast for the region remains hot and dry. 

Daytime temperatures in the region are expected to hit 24 C this afternoon and reach 33 C by the weekend with no rain in the longterm forecast. 

“That is going to drive the fire danger in the province to high, very high levels,” St-Onge said.

Highway 16 remains closed in both directions, and drivers in the area are warned of reduced visibility in the area due to smoke. (David Bajer/CBC)

Evacuation orders issued on Tuesday remain unchanged. Residents along Highway 16 between Evansburg and Wildwood have been told to leave.

The evacuation order also applies to people who are in the Lobstick resort area. An evacuation centre has been set up at the Evansburg Arena. 

Highway 16 remains closed in both directions, from Highway 22 to Highway 753, and drivers in the area are warned of reduced visibility in the area due to smoke.

‘Too close for comfort’ 

Krista Wiggins fled her rural Evansburg home Tuesday night as black smoke from a nearby wildfire billowed above the treeline.

“It looked like it was right in my backyard,” Wiggins said Tuesday evening as she and her family registered at the evacuation centre.

“A little too close for comfort.” 

Wiggins said she, her husband and young daughter would wait out the fire at a nearby hotel. 

“Hopefully they have some good news for us and we can go home,” she said.

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