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Monday, December 11, 2023

More than 13,000 Are Evacuated as Wildfires Burn in Western Canada

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More than 13,000 people have been evacuated from the western Canadian province of Alberta as dozens of wildfires burn there, officials said on Friday.

About 78 active wildfires were burning across the province as of Friday morning, and 19 of them were classified as “out of control,” Stephen Lacroix, the managing director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said at a news conference on Friday morning in Edmonton, the provincial capital. He called the situation “evolving and extremely fluid.”

By late Friday evening, the website of the province’s wildfire agency showed that the number of active wildfires had grown to more than 100, more than a third of them out of control.

A spokeswoman for the Alberta government declined to comment on Friday night, referring a reporter to the province’s website and social media pages.

In the United States, the National Weather Service warned on Friday that warm, dry and windy conditions in the Southwest and the Southern Plains over the weekend would create weather conducive to wildfires.

More than two million people in Colorado and New Mexico were under a “red flag” warning on Friday night, indicating an elevated risk of fire danger. More than a million others were under a fire weather watch, meaning that critical fire weather conditions were forecast.

Wildfires are increasing in size and intensity in the Western United States, and wildfire seasons are growing longer. Recent research has suggested that heat and dryness associated with global warming are major reasons for the increase in bigger and stronger fires.

In Alberta, early spring tends to be the time of greatest risk for wildfires. That is partly because spring snow melt leaves a significant amount of dead grass and other potential fire fuel on the land.

The wildfires burning on Friday were some of about 379 recorded in the province this year. “That’s significantly more wildfire activity, for this time of year, than we’ve certainly seen anytime in the recent past,” Christie Tucker, a spokeswoman for Alberta’s wildfire agency, told reporters.

As of Friday morning, wildfires in Alberta had burned nearly 100 square miles of land in the province, an area nearly a third the size of New York City.

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