MODIS (Aqua) satellite image of fires burning in Alberta on 17 May 2011 (resolution: 250m)
False colour satellite image (MODIS Aqua, 250 resolution) showing fires burning
South West of Slave Lake in the early afternoon of 17 May 2011.
The fires in the town of Slave Lake (South Eastern edge of the lake) have been extinguished.
Recent news from Alberta and other provinces of Canada:
A Helicopter Water Bomber Near Slave Lake, Alberta
Wildfires whipped by high winds destroyed more than a third of the sizable town in northern Alberta on Monday and forced oil companies in Canada’s largest energy-producing province to shut off tens of thousands of barrels of output.
A helicopter water bomber drops a load of water on a spot fire near Slave Lake, Alberta May 17, 2011.
About 100 wildfires are burning in Alberta, spurred by warm temperatures and gusting winds, with 23 considered out of control in a fire season unlike any seen before.
Quebec sends 4 water bombers to fight Alberta wildfires
Four Quebec government CL-415 water bombers, with crews and three extra technicians, took off at 10 a.m. Tuesday to help battle the forest fires that have ravaged northern Alberta.
The teams are from the Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU), the provincial forest fire agency.
This was in response to a request for help late Monday from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. The planes were headed for Lac La Biche, Alta., about 225 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
The communiqué from SOPFEU noted that weather conditions in Quebec in recent days have contributed to maintain a degree of inflammability in the forest that is, the trees are too waterlogged to catch fire.
Since the end of winter, SOPFEU crews have battled 45 fires covering 37 hectares of forest in Quebec, far below the norms for this time of year. Over a 10-year average, Quebec normally has had 162 fires involving 539 hectares of forest by this date.
SOPFEU and other provincial and territorial firefighting agencies have mutual aid agreements for situations like the one in northern Alberta.
Sask. to keep firefighters in province
Saskatchewan is currently battling its own forest blazes, meaning the province wont be sending firefighting help Albertas way, a provincial fire official says.
Unfortunately, were not able to assist Alberta at this time as we have increasing fire dangers throughout the forest in northern Saskatchewan, said Scott Wasylenchuk, manager of the provincial forest fire centre.
A forest fire in the Slave Lake, Alta., area has left much of the town in charred ruins.
In Saskatchewan, 15 forest fires are underway, Wasylenchuk said.
There are two forest fires of concern, including one in the Meadow Lake Provincial Park area. But no structures are considered to be in danger at the present time, he said.
We just want to get the message to get out that the forest is very dry, he said.
Wasylenchuk said above-normal precipitation has fuelled growth to create a layer on the forest floor that is very combustible.
The grasses dry out very quickly and with the hot weather and winds weve been having we are at a high to an extreme danger right across the forest, he said.
At this time of year, most forest fires are caused by humans, with lightening season still around the corner.
Were asking the public to be very vigilant.
Right now, 134 personnel are working or patrolling forest fires in Saskatchewan, Wasylenchuk said.
Local crew heads to Alberta to fight forest fires Eighty-five forest firefighters from Ontario, including a four-person crew from Sault Ste. Marie, have been deployed to Slave Lake, Alta.
The crews were to arrive in Edmonton at noon Tuesday and were expected to begin their duties immediately to help combat a forest fire that is devastating the town.
Slave Lake has been evacuated as the raging fire continues to grow due to strong winds gusting up to 100 kilometres per hour.
Already hundreds of homes, churches and businesses have been destroyed by the fire.
Lindsay Munroe, spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resource’s forest firefighting unit in northeastern Ontario, said that 43 of the 85 crew members are from the northeastern fire region.
Alberta has not requested additional deployment of equipment at this time, she said.
This is the first reciprocal aid request Ontario has received this fire season, which officially began April 1.
Ontario is part of a national forest fire mutual aid support system co-ordinated by Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre in Winnipeg.
While the fire situation in Alberta is currently listed as extreme, Ontario’s hazard is considered moderate, Munroe said.
However, if anticipated precipitation does not materialize in the next few days that hazard could increase, she said.
“We’re reminding people to be extremely careful this weekend, especially if they’re cleaning up cottages. We suggest they consider mulching or composting as an alternative to burning,’ she said.
On Monday, a crew was called to Jones Landing, in the Batchewana Bay area to extinguish a human-caused fire that was about .1 hectares in size.
Munroe said that up to five fire starts have been reported daily in the northeastern fire region, mostly human caused.
While heavy precipitation has occurred this spring, the forests are just starting to “green” and the dead, matted grass tends to dry quickly.
In Ontario, there are about 800 forest firefighters and a further 320 available from the private sector to battle forest fires across the province.
The MNR operates the province’s forest fire program with $25 million of fire suppression equipment, 14 water bombers, 13 helicopters and 12 fire detection aircraft.
Last year, as part of the mutual support agreement, 750 Ontario staff provided 10,000 days of help to British Columbia during its heavy fire season between July and September. It was the third largest deployment of resources in Ontario’s history.
In 2001, a fire in Chisholm, Albta., about 150 kilometres north of Edmonton, destroyed more than 60 buildings and charred 116,000 hectares of land.
Lubicon First Nation village under wildfire threat
Windswept wildfires have burned 105,000 hectares since this weekend, more than what was destroyed in during the entire Alberta 2010 wildfire season.
The area is about one and half times the size of Edmonton.
One hundred wildfires are blazing throughout the province 23 of them out of control resulting in evacuation orders in many Alberta communities.
On Monday night, residents of the Lubicon First Nation worked through the night to build fireguards around their village, now threatened by flames from both north and south. The town, northeast of the destructive fires at Slave Lake, is already near an oil pipeline spill where cleanup has been shut down because of evacuation orders.
Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for Loon Lake, Red Earth Creek and parts of the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River, including Wagner, Widewater, Canyon Creek, Assineau, and the Poplar Lane Subdivision east of Slave Lake. The Municipal District of Northern Sunrise has issued evacuation advisories for Little Buffalo and Martin Lake.
Evacuation orders are issued locally by municipalities as part of declaring a state of local emergency.
The evacuation of the Lubicon First Nation is not mandatory, but the vast majority of the 400 residents are now living in Peace River hotels. The rest are still helping in the town.
They worked through the night, said Garrett Tomlinson, communication co-ordinator for the town. Our trained guys are out there, but also most of the councillors we have are driving machinery as well. Every young, able man we have is out here.
The main goal is to stop the flames from spreading further into the Little Buffalo area, Chief Bernard Ominayak said in a news release.
Rob Harris, the provinces wildfire information officer, said the flames are not threatening the Rainbow Pipeline oil spill in the area. The closest fire is 16 kilometres northeast of the spill site, but winds are blowing in the opposite direction, Harris said.
Fires blazing throughout the province are forcing evacuations, threatening property, and stretching already thin resources. The size of the affected areas illustrates how significant the winds were and what a large role that played in fire growth, Harris said.
Fifteen of the fires are in the Lesser Slave Lake area.
The situation remains extremely serious around the province in general, said Colin Lloyd, executive director of operations at the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
However, there are signs of hope. Harris said firefighters were able to hold their ground against the two Slave Lake fires overnight Monday, despite strong winds.
He said winds are now starting to diminish, which will help.
Cooler temperatures will also help, though thunderstorms that have been forecast later in the week could raise the risk of further fires caused by lighting.
Firefighters are on alert for that and they are standing by, Harris said.
Two hundred more firefighters will be arriving in the province by end of day Wednesday, which will bring the total number of out-of-province firefighters to 400. There are a total of about 1,000 firefighters working on the fires.
Cooler temperatures are forecast for the next few days but there are worries that lightning from possible thunderstorms could spark more fires.
Fires in the province include:
The wildfire 23 kilometres south of Loon Lake is out of control and has burned about 30,000 hectares;
The wildfire 15 kilometres southeast of Gift Lake is out of control and has burned about 80 hectares;
The wildfire 7.5 kilometres northeast of Red Earth Creek is out of control and has burned about 3,000 hectares;
The wildfire burning north of Fort McKay is being held and has burned about 2,000 hectares;
The wildfire 27 kilometres south of Kinuso is out of control and covers about 3,000 hectares;
The wildfire 12 kilometres northwest of Cadotte Lake is out of control and has burned 700 hectares;
Five fires are burning 25 kilometres north of Rocky Mountain House, covering about 816 hectares;
The wildfire approximately five kilometres south of Chisholm is being held at approximately 516 hectares;
The wildfire in Richardson Backcountry has burned approximately 40,000 hectares on both sides of the Athabasca River.
The province is telling residents to contact their local municipality for the latest information.
Cenovus donates $50,000 to help residents affected by forest fires Cenovus Energy is supporting residents of the Slave Lake area forced from their homes due to forest fires by donating $50,000 to the Canadian Red Cross for its relief efforts in northern Alberta.
Our thoughts are with all of the families who are dealing with the devastation of the fire that swept through Slave Lake, including our employees and contractors, said Brian Ferguson, President & Chief Executive Officer of Cenovus. The Red Cross is already on the ground in the area and this donation will help them with the excellent work they are doing to provide emergency assistance to the thousands of people in need.
As part of its matching gifts program, Cenovus will also match employee donations dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000 per employee. In addition, the company will assess other opportunities to support the community of Slave Lake as it starts to rebuild.
Cenovuss Pelican Lake oil operation is located about 90 kilometres northeast of Slave Lake. The forest fires are not close enough to cause concern for the facilities at this time but Cenovus continues to closely monitor the situation. The fires have forced the shutdown of the section of Plains Midstream Rainbow pipeline used to transport oil to Edmonton from the Pelican Lake operation. As a result, storage is filling up and Cenovus has started to shut down its production. The company anticipates storage may be full Wednesday and production would likely have to stop until the pipeline is operating again. The Pelican Lake operation produces an average of 22,000 barrels of oil per day.
Sask. offers fire aid to stricken Alta.
Saskatchewan’s forest fire season is underway with 27 fires burning, including one major fire covering an area of more than 800 hectares.
Steve Roberts, executive director of the province’s Wildfire Management Branch, said Saskatchewan will help neighbouring Alberta, where disaster has struck the community of Slave Lake, in any way it can.
Alberta has called in hundreds of extra firefighters to fight a 700-hectare fire that’s still raging out of control after destroying 40 per cent of the town of Slave Lake and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.
“Our aircraft are primarily focused on the west side of the province right now so we could offer support for new fires as they dedicate resources to the big blazes that are going right now for them,” said Roberts.
In Saskatchewan, Roberts said the largest fire, about 800 hectares, is burning in the Meadow Lake Provincial Park. Most of Saskatchewan’s other fires are on the west side of the province between La Loche and Meadow Lake.
The fires are suspected to have been caused by people burning garbage or by sparks from all-terrain vehicles.
Most home insurance covers forest fire loses
Slave Lake evacuees meeting with their insurance brokers should be in for some good news in a bad situation.
Most home insurance policies in Canada cover losses caused by forest fires. The Insurance Bureau of Canada website says, even if there is no loss or damage to a home or property, homeowners’ insurance policies may also provide some coverage for additional living expenses if the policy holder is complying with a government evacuation order.
When forest fires ravaged parts of central BC two years ago, Lindsay Olson, a vice president with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said in a statement, “It is important for everyone to understand that forest fires are covered by standard homeowners and business insurance policies
“There is always some anxiety and confusion over what is covered by insurance in times like this,” she added, “We want to assure everyone that property insurance policies in force at the time of the loss will respond to damage caused by these fires.”
Aftermath Photos of Slave Lake, Alberta Wildfire
Forest fires, which flared up quickly during a dry, windy weekend, have caused substantial damage to Slave Lake, Alberta and the surrounding area.
Forest fires destroyed about a third of Slave Lake, a northern Alberta town of 10,000 people, Reuters reported quoting media sources. There were no reports of injuries, but residents were under a mandatory evacuation order.
Wildfires that hit Canada’s western province of Alberta over the weekend have ravaged Slave Lake, forcing the town to declare a state of emergency and issue a mandatory evacuation order for its 7,000 residents late Sunday, a Wall Street Journal report stated.
In a press release, the Alberta government said about 90 percent of residents have been safely evacuated, with only essential and firefighter staff remaining in the town. Three centers have been set up for evacuees.
Hundreds of buildings in the town, more than 100 miles north of Edmonton, are reported to have burned, including its town hall, radio station and library. There are no reports of injuries.
The government deployed 1,000 firefighters, 100 helicopters and 20 water bombers to battle the blaze. In addition, 200 more firefighters were expected to arrive from other Canadian provinces.
Colin Buchan of the High Level fire department looks for hot spots near a destroyed building in downtown Slave Lake, Alberta, May 16, 2011.
Parts of the town were devastated by wild fires that rolled through the area late last night and early this morning.
Burned out vehicles sit in a completely destroyed neighborhood of Slave Lake, Alberta, May 16, 2011.
Parts of the town were devastated by wild fires that rolled through the area late last night and early this morning.
A water truck drives by a church that has been burnt down, in a completely destroyed neighborhood of Slave Lake, Alberta May 16, 2011. Wildfires whipped by high winds destroyed more than a third of the sizable town in northern Alberta on Monday and forced oil companies in Canada’s largest energy-producing province to shut off tens of thousands of barrels of output. Parts of the town were devastated by wildfires that rolled through the area late last night and early this morning.
A row of new Ford trucks sit completely destroyed at the Ford dealership in Slave Lake, Alberta May 16, 2011. Wildfires whipped by high winds destroyed more than a third of the sizable town in northern Alberta on Monday and forced oil companies in Canada’s largest energy-producing province to shut off tens of thousands of barrels of output. Parts of the town were devastated by wildfires that rolled through the area late last night and early this morning.
A motorcycle that melted from the heat of a fire is seen in a completely destroyed neighborhood of Slave Lake, Alberta May 16, 2011. Wildfires whipped by high winds destroyed more than a third of the sizable town in northern Alberta on Monday and forced oil companies in Canada’s largest energy-producing province to shut off tens of thousands of barrels of output. Parts of the town were devastated by wild fires that rolled through the area late last night and early this morning.
The remains of a coin collection lie in the ashes of a fire in a house in a completely destroyed neighborhood of Slave Lake, Alberta May 16, 2011. Wildfires whipped by high winds destroyed more than a third of the sizable town in northern Alberta on Monday and forced oil companies in Canada’s largest energy-producing province to shut off tens of thousands of barrels of output. Parts of the town were devastated by wild fires that rolled through the area late last night and early this morning.
The foundation of a house that has been burned down, sits in a completely destroyed neighborhood of Slave Lake, Alberta May 16, 2011. Wildfires whipped by high winds destroyed more than a third of a sizable town in northern Alberta on Monday and forced oil companies in Canada’s largest energy-producing province to shut off tens of thousands of barrels of output. Parts of the town were devastated by wildfires that rolled through the area late last night and early this morning.
The new town office lies in ruins after it burnt down in Slave Lake, Alberta May 16, 2011. Wildfires whipped by high winds destroyed more than a third of the sizable town in northern Alberta on Monday and forced oil companies in Canada’s largest energy-producing province to shut off tens of thousands of barrels of output. Parts of the town were devastated by wildfires that rolled through the area late last night and early this morning.
Slave Lake residents face wait to go home after fire
Residents of fire-ravaged Slave Lake will not be allowed to return home for at least a week, possibly two, says the mayor of the northern Alberta town.
Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee said she understands people who still have a home standing are anxious to return, but services like drinking water need to be in place before residents are allowed back in.
The entire town, located 250 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, was evacuated Sunday when wind-whipped wildfires suddenly turned and blazed through town, destroying more than a third of its homes, along with the town hall and government centre.
About 100 RCMP officers and Alberta sheriffs are patrolling the town day and night, as well as controlling traffic on the highways leading into the community, said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Patrick Webb adding that the homes of seven officers were destroyed in the fire.
There are 100 forest fires burning across central and northern Alberta Tuesday 23 of them out of control and evacuation alerts are in place for more than a half-dozen small communities in the Slave Lake region.
Forest fires north of Fort McMurray forced the evacuation of 2,000 oil workers on Monday.
While gusting winds continue to drive the fires, both wind and temperatures are expected to turn in the favour of firefighters, said wildfire information officer Rob Harris.
Diminishing winds, cooler temperatures, rising humidity and possible rainfall will help battle the more than 100,000 hectares currently burning in the province more area than burned all of last year, he said.
However forecasts include thunder storms, so firefighters are bracing for more lightning-caused fires over the next few days, said Harris.
About 400 firefighters from British Columbia and Ontario are joining more than 1,000 Alberta firefighters already on the ground.
Calgary fire department sent 116 firefighters and about a dozen pieces of equipment to help mainly with fires in Slave Lake, spokesman Brian McAsey told CBC News Tuesday.
He said the fires in the town of Slave Lake are under control, and the job now included compiling a list of homes and businesses that had been damaged.
People in evacuation shelters in Athabasca, Westlock and Edmonton are being told it will be at least three or four days before they get back to the town to see what is left.
Jaqueline Robinson, who was one of the last people to leave Slave Lake, spent Monday night with her children at a shelter in the Westlock, Alta., community hall, one of three shelters set up by the provincial government.
“It was like something off a movie,” she told CBC News. “It was creepy. We went and checked just to see, just to make sure our house was still up. So far, it’s still up.”
Relief officials have been overwhelmed by the number of donations they’ve been receiving. The Canadian Red Cross asked Tuesday that people not to bring them household goods, food and clothing.
The relief organization only accepts cash donations which enables volunteers to get evacuees exactly what they need.
“The Red Cross will than make every effort to procure new, safe, and standardized items and good which are needed by evacuees,” a news release said.
“The Red Cross makes every effort to keep administration costs for disaster responses to under seven percent of funds raised.”
Information on how to donate can be found on the website of the Canadian Red Cross.
On Monday, officials in Westlock asked people to hold off for at least a day until they could assess the amount of goods they’ve received.
Cash and cheque donations are still being accepted at the Westlock Community Hall and Town Office.