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Alberta expecting 'extreme wildfire behaviour' Friday as more communities are evacuated

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Wildfire officials issued an update on the "very serious" situation parts of central and northern Alberta were in on Friday.

There were 78 active wildfires, 19 of them out of control, when the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and Alberta Wildfire held a news conference in Edmonton at 10:30 a.m.

"This is a rapidly changing situation today. It's early in the day, it's going to get hotter, it's going to get windier, and we're expecting some extreme wildfire behaviour," said Christie Tucker, Alberta Wildfire's information unit manager.

As of 6 p.m., there were 92 active wildfires, including 31 out of control.

The Town of Edson was evacuated just after 5:30 p.m.

Alberta Wildfire is focusing its efforts on three out-of-control fires: Drayton Valley, Fox Lake, and Rainbow Lake.

Drayton Valley and Fox Lake have been evacuated while the wildfire in the Rainbow Lake area is moving away from the community, Tucker said.

More than 13,000 Albertans have been forced out of their homes this week, Alberta Emergency Management Agency managing director Stephen Lacroix told reporters.

"The situation is very serious," he said. "Please listen to all local officials and obey any evacuation orders you may receive."

Ontario and Quebec are sending a total of 79 firefighters to Alberta this weekend.

There have been 348 wildfires this year, Tucker said, a "significant" increase compared to the recent past.

"There's a huge fire load in the province right now," Tucker said. "It's just an indication of the conditions that we're seeing. Temperatures have been 10 to 15 degrees above normal for a little while now. We still don't have green grass and leaves all over the province which means that the ground is very dry."

Almost all wildfires are caused by human activity at the start of the season, Tucker said.

Alberta Wildfire investigates the cause of all wildfires.

AEMA and Alberta Wildfire will provide daily updates while the wildfires continue.

Alberta's Emergency Management Cabinet Committee also met Friday afternoon.

Before the meeting, the province released a statement that read, in part:

“Cabinet continues to be kept up to date on the wildfire situation – as is the leader of the Opposition per the Premier’s request. Cabinet continues to have decision-making abilities to deal with emergency decisions.

“This is a very serious ongoing situation, and Alberta’s government will continue to monitor and provide Albertans with the most up-to-date information."

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