Firefighters face big challenges as wildfires continue to burn
Published Monday, May 16, 2011 6:45PM MDT
Strong winds and warm temperatures are proving to be the biggest challenges facing firefighters across the province Monday.
The province's two main priorities are the two fires burning in the Slave Lake area.
The province says a wildfire east of Slave Lake has burned approximately 2,000 hectares of land, and a wildfire south of Slave Lake has burned 15,000 hectares.
The two fires have blazed through thousands of hectares of land.
With wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres an hour, and warm temperatures, the conditions are ideal for spreading a wildfire.
Edmonton has sent help to the area, including four fire units, and 55 staff.
Alberta has deployed approximately 1,000 firefighters, 100 helicopters, 20 air tankers and scores of heavy ground-based machines.
"Our first chief officer on the scene indicted it looked like a war zone," said John Lamb, deputy fire chief.
"Embers from the forest fire can travel great distances. You've got a firestorm moving at the same speed of the wind. If it's 100 kilometres, that's the speed it's moving."
At one point, the intense conditions forced firefighters to take a step back.
"When it becomes too dangerous to fight the fire on the ground firefighters will pull back. Their safety is of paramount concern to us. Same thing with the air tankers if they disappeared from the sky and people didn't see them it was because it is too dangerous," said Rob Harris, wildlife information officer.
CTV News was told firefighters from B.C. have been arriving throughout the day. More firefighters from Ontario are expected to arrive by Tuesday.
The unusual weather conditions are making for a difficult battle. Fire crews are now hoping for rain and lots of it in the coming days.
"The last few days in regards to the wind is extraordinary. It's not very common that this happens in Alberta...we don't see fire seasons like this very often," said Harris.
The province is bracing for the situation to worsen as thunderstorms are a possibility in the days to come.
With files from Serena Mah