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'Get out now': Officials urge people in Yellowhead County evacuation zone to leave as fire tears through the county

"If you're inside this evacuation zone, you need to get out of here."

That's the key message the mayors of Edson and Yellowhead County want residents to hear after an evacuation order was issued for the area on Friday evening as a result of a large wildfire threatening multiple communities.

Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara and Yellowhead County Mayor Wade Williams are working together during the emergency situation.

The pair spoke to CTV News Edmonton on Saturday.

"We have a lot of people not taking these evacuations seriously enough. We have seen what these fires can do," Williams said.

"We had some crews trapped yesterday for a short period of time, and these crews are people that know what they’re doing, they fight fires for a living."

Zahara echoed his message.

"One of the big challenges may be as this fire intensifies is highway closures, and then people are not going to be able to get down the highway. This fire south of town is massive, and if that wall of flames starts heading north, highways are going to be shut down," he said.

"They're not going to be able to get out, and our crews are not coming to help people. So get out now."

Zahara said the fire that's threatening Edson moved more than 30 kilometres on Friday, and grew immensely in size.

He's calling the situation extreme.

"We have fire that passed over the MacLeod River through our Willmore Park, which is very widely used by the community, and headed straight north towards the town of Edson," Zahara said. "It’s currently less than two kilometres away from the border of the community, which is the southern area of Edson."

The overflow campground at Willmore Park was lost as a result of the fire.

A fire truck in Edson on June 9, 2023. (Sean McClune/CTV News Edmonton)

No structures have been destroyed in Edson, and Zahara said crews are working to keep it that way.

"They are doing patrols to ensure that any embers that come down, say if they land on a roof, that they're able to put those out as quickly as possible."

The town of Edson has about 8,400 residents. Williams and Zahara believe about an additional 5,000 people in Yellowhead County are also impacted by the evacuation order.

"We have multiple fires in Yellowhead County. We're not dealing with just one. We've got a big fire over in Peers area, so we’ve got sprinkler systems set up throughout the hamlet of Peers, and on a bunch of houses in that area," Williams said.

"There’s another finger off of that [Edson] fire that headed further to the west. It was actually moving to the southwest. It was headed toward another hamlet but overnight it changed directions and it's headed back for Highway 16. Right now it’s three to five kilometres south of Highway 16 south of Marlboro."

Williams says crews are also setting up sprinkler systems in Marlboro to protect homes there.

For Edson residents and many in Yellowhead County, this isn't the first time they've been evacuated this year.

"We're going into, we’re past six weeks Yellowhead County has been under evacuation orders in different areas throughout the county, and with the hot weather and stuff, there's no end in sight," said Williams.

"Our residents are doing the best they can do, trying to cope, and it's not easy when you move them out and they’re allowed to come back, and you've got to move them out again."

An RCMP officer notifies Edson residents about the wildfire evacuation on June 9, 2023. (Sean McClune/CTV News Edmonton)

"It's very difficult, especially in a community our size. We’ve never been evacuated in our over 100 year history until now, twice within almost 30 days," said Zahara.

Zahara said he's been assured by the province that Edson is a top priority, and more equipment and personnel is expected to arrive in the area on Saturday.

"We just hope that weather cooperates, and with the resources we have in place we will be able to keep structural loss to a minimum, but the situation is very, very serious right now."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb Top Stories


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