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Alberta could break decades-old record for amount of area burned during 2023 wildfire season

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Alberta could set a record in 2023 for area burned by wildfires.

So far, Alberta Wildfire estimates 1,400,021 hectares have burned during the 2023 wildfire season, beating the previous record of 1,357,000 hectares burned in 1981.

"These numbers can change when we do reassessment of area burned when we can go back and assess a fire that is under control," said Melissa Story of Alberta Wildfire at Monday afternoon's provincial wildfire update.

"There is often vegetation that isn't burned over, so those numbers will fluctuate."

The current numbers do not account for the rest of the 2023 wildfire season, which runs until Oct. 1.

There have been 632 wildfires this year in Alberta, 129 of which were caused by lightning.

Story said the remaining fires were caused by humans.

While some of the human-caused fires are being investigated as arsons, Story said there are a number of other ways fires can be started.

"It can mean anything from an abandoned campfire, to an industry-related fire, to an inadvertent OHV fire. We’re also seeing an emerging trend with fireworks and exploding targets, so it can mean a plethora of things," she said.

On Monday afternoon, there were 76 active wildfires in Alberta, 23 of which were considered out of control.

NO DECISION MADE ON UPPING EVACUATION PAYMENTS

Mike Ellis, minister of public safety and emergency services, was asked on Monday if the government had considered increasing emergency payments made to Albertans forced out of their homes given the length of some evacuations.

"Obviously, we’re constantly assessing and reassessing the situation, so anything is entirely possible," he said.

"This government is committed to doing whatever it takes to help the people of Alberta, and if it means some form of reassessment on a payment, then certainly, we’ll take a look at that."

As of Monday afternoon, there were six evacuation orders in place in Alberta. 

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