OTTAWA: Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes in western Canada as wildfires flare in areas of Alberta and rapid snow melt causes flooding in interior British Columbia.

As of Friday, more than 13,000 residents in Alberta had been ordered to evacuate due to 78 fires. The territory of the Little Red River Cree Nation, which consists of three villages in the province’s north, was among the hardest impacted, with the 1,458-hectare (3609-acre) Fox Lake fire consuming 20 residences and the police station.

The entire 7,000-person community of Drayton Valley, 140 kilometers (87 miles) west of Edmonton, was also told to leave late Thursday night.

Pembina Pipeline Corp, which operates oil pipelines in the area, stated that it has triggered emergency response and incident management systems and is “evaluating any current or anticipated operational impacts.”

There was no mention of any effects on oil and gas producers.

According to Christie Tucker, an information unit manager with Alberta Wildfire, there have been 348 wildfires in Alberta this year, with over 25,000 hectares destroyed.
“This is significantly more wildfire activity for this time of year than we have seen in the recent past,” Tucker said at a press conference, adding that fires would likely worsen on Friday.

“It’s going to get hotter, windier, and we’re expecting some extreme wildfire behavior.” “Firefighters are ready today for what could be an extremely difficult day,” she warned.
Rivers breached their banks in British Columbia, sweeping over homes and forcing highway closures in a number of municipalities across the province’s interior, including Cache Creek and Grand Forks.

Western Canada had been experiencing a frigid spring until last week, but the sudden introduction of unseasonably high temperatures, in some places 10-15 C above the average for early May, is triggering both fires and flooding.

With heavy rain anticipated over the weekend, the British Columbia government has urged residents to brace for further flooding.

“Warm temperatures in the Interior have accelerated snowmelt and caused increased pressure on rivers and creeks,” said the Ministry of Emergency Management in a statement.

“The situation is expected to worsen as rain and thundershowers are forecast for Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6, raising the risk of flooding.”




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