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Alberta declares state of emergency due to 'unprecedented' start to wildfire season


Alberta's provincial government declared a state of emergency on Saturday as tens of thousands of hectares continued to burn.

"After reviewing the province's current situation and our response options, we declared a provincial state of emergency to protect the safety, health and welfare of Albertans," Premier Danielle Smith said about meeting that afternoon with the province's Emergency Management Cabinet Committee.

The declaration empowers the government in extreme situations, such as by giving it access to emergency funds and better intergovernmental coordination, Smith and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis said.

"This is not a step that we took lightly, but it is one that will allow the quickest and most effective response," Smith said. "This measure allows for a more comprehensive response to extraordinary events. It also ensures that the centre is fully staffed and our partners across borders are notified."

"As the current situation continues to evolve, I have great confidence that Alberta is prepared to manage whatever comes our way," Ellis said.

Additionally, the emergency coordination centre was escalated from a Level 3 to 4 for a more comprehensive response, the premier added.


As of 6:30 p.m., there were 110 wildfires burning in Alberta, 37 considered to be out of control.

"That should tell you it has been an extremely challenging day for firefighters here," Alberta Information Unit manager Christie Tucker said at the 5 p.m. update. "We were battling very strong winds, hot weather and those winds produce extreme wildfire activity, which saw many of the wildfires on the landscape grow or move quite quickly.

"We are looking forward to a brief reprieve possibly in the next few days as cooler weather comes up through the province. That may give firefighters a chance to catch their breath and we're happy to welcome additional firefighters today from Ontario and Quebec."

Officials said more than 24,000 Albertans have been forced from their homes because of wildfires.

The situation has been described as unprecedented by Tucker.

She estimated around 122,000 hectares of land were burning on Saturday.

"Looking back over the last five years, at this time of year, the highest number of hectares burned at this time generally didn't go beyond 800 hectares," Tucker said during a 12 p.m. news conference with Smith and Ellis.

The officials spoke in Calgary before a meeting with Alberta's Emergency Management Cabinet Committee at 3 p.m. where it was decided to declare a state of emergency.

All levels of government are collaborating on the wildfire response, Smith told reporters later on Saturday.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley will receive regular briefings and the two are scheduled to speak in the coming days, the premier said.

Smith wants to schedule a call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Ellis is in contact with his counterpart in Ottawa, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

"Everybody wants to be focused on this. This is pretty unprecedented," Smith said.

"I don't know that I've ever seen 24,500 people across over 20 communities be evacuated at one time. So I think we're treating this with the full gravity and attention it deserves, and I'm grateful for all the levels of government working together on this."

The most detailed and accurate evacuation information is being published by local authorities and on the Alberta Emergency Alert system. CTV News Edmonton has also compiled a list of resources Albertans can use to stay up to date on the wildfires across the province. Top Stories

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