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Canada’s Alberta province declares state of emergency over wildfires

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Fire crews battled wildfires threatening communities in western Canada on Sunday as cooler temperatures and a bit of rain brought some relief, but officials warned the reprieve came only in some areas.

Authorities in Alberta reported 110 active fires across the western state, saying 37 were out of control. The number of people evacuated swelled to around 29,000, up from Saturday’s 24,000. 

The state’s Premier, Danielle Smith, declared a state of Emergency on Saturday after reviewing the state of the blazes. She said Alberta “has been experiencing a hot, dry spring, and with so much kindling, all it takes is a few sparks to ignite some truly frightening wildfires.”

According to Smith, more than 20 communities have been evacuated and at least 122,000 hectares have burned so far. With her declaration, the Alberta government will be able to wield ” greater powers to respond to extreme situations” which include mobilising additional resources and unlocking emergency funds.

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Two out-of-control wildfires in neighbouring British Columbia also caused some people to leave their homes, and officials warned that they expected high winds to cause the blazes to grow bigger in the next few days.

Provincial officials in Alberta said the weather forecast was favourable for the next few days, with small amounts of rain and overcast conditions. But they cautioned that hot and dry conditions were predicted to return within a few days.

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Colin Blair, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said accurate damage reports were not yet available because conditions made it difficult to assess the situation. There were buildings destroyed in the town of Fox Lake, including 20 homes, a police station and a store.

Residents had to be evacuated by helicopter or boat.

Furthermore, amid the fears of the wildfires degenerating even more, there is a growing concern that the flames may hit oil refineries on the territory. Alberta is Canada’s largest oil and natural gas producer and while authorities are closely monitoring the situation, so far there are no reported disruptions in production.

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