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Thick, black wildfire smoke rolling into Fort McMurray prompts RCMP warning

Several wildfires broke out in northeastern Alberta earlier this week due to lightning strikes and on Thurday, RCMP in Fort McMurray issued a warning about drifting smoke causing visibility issues.

Wood Buffalo RCMP sent out an advisory just before 5 p.m. saying heavy, dark smoke was moving into the Fort McMurray area from the south.

511 Alberta traffic cameras showed a thick wave of dark smoke in the air to the south of the city.

RCMP said the Regional Emergency Command Centre (RECC) and police were monitoring the current wildfire situation.

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Additional patrols were being made to monitor highway visibility in an effort to ensure motorist safety. RCMP said the patrols would be ongoing and additional information will be shared as it becomes available.

A traffic camera image from Highway 63 and Confederation Way in Fort McMurray showing wildfire smoke moving in on Thursday, July 11, 2024.
A traffic camera image from Highway 63 and Confederation Way in Fort McMurray showing wildfire smoke moving in on Thursday, July 11, 2024. 511 Alberta

A provincial fire ban was enacted on Wednesday for all of Alberta’s forest protection area, which includes the Fort McMurray region.

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On Thursday, Forestry and Parks Minister Todd Loewen said almost 200 wildfires have started across the Alberta Forest Protection Area in the last two weeks.

Loewen said Alberta Wildfire is working to contain and suppress fires as they arise and encourages Albertans to stay vigilant and follow all local advisories.

Melissa Story, an information officer with Alberta Wildfire, said wildfire activity has grown rapidly due to the province’s ongoing heat wave, doubling the total area burnt in the last 48 hours.

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Click to play video: 'Alberta Wildfires: How to prepare for evacuation'

Alberta Wildfires: How to prepare for evacuation

Story said there were 92 wildfires burning in the forest protection area as of 2:45 p.m. on Thursday. Of these, 29 are listed as out of control.

Eight fires are currently being held and 35 are listed as under control, she said.

By 4 p.m., there were 104 active wildfires burning, 42 of which were listed as out of control.

Since January, the province has responded to just fewer than 700 wildfires, which have burned roughly 184,000 hectares of land, Story said. She noted more than two million hectares of land had burned at this same time in 2023.

For the latest information on which areas in Alberta are under an evacuation alert or order due to a wildfire, visit the Alberta Emergency Alert website.

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For the latest information on the wildfire status and danger across the province, visit the Alberta Wildfire website.

The latest information on fire advisories, restrictions and bans across the province can be found on the Alberta fire bans website.

— with files from Aaron Sousa, Global News

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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