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Residents urged to prepare as wildfires spread in West

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on May 16th, 2024

Wildfire season is upon residents in several Western provinces and thousands have been evacuated to safety, while others are on standby to leave a moment's notice. 

There are 128 active wildfires burning, including some in British Columbia and Alberta that are characterized as “out of control,” according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

The wildfire burning near Fort McMurray, Alta., recently meant an evacuation order for people living in neighbourhoods considered to be most at risk. It’s not the first time Fort McMurray has been threatened. In May 2016 a wildfire swept through the community and forced 88,000 people from their homes.

Meanwhile, in B.C., the Parker Lake and Patry Creek wildfires continue to burn near Fort Nelson, fire officials said. A wildfire burning in Manitoba near Flin Flon and The Pas has already led to evacuations. And fires are also active near Fort Liard, N.W.T., Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Fires have already engulfed more than 384 hectares in Canada overall, marking the first series of major wildfires this season. Some are the result of so-called zombie fires which have overwintered, smouldering slowly beneath the snow-covered surface insulated from the cold.

Canada experienced its most devastating wildfire season in recorded history last year, with more than 18.5 million hectares burned.

Be prepared

As the wildfire situation in Western Canada continues to evolve, being ready to flee is critical. According to the Province of Alberta residents should be prepared in case an evacuation order is called for their community. They are advised to bring pets and pack medications, necessities and clothes to last a week or more.

The province outlines the difference between an evacuation alert and order:

Evacuation alert (advisory):

  • People should prepare to evacuate soon if situation deteriorates.
  • Evacuation alerts help you prepare to leave on short notice.
  • Take the actions directed, be prepared to go quickly and monitor trusted sources of information for updates.

Evacuation order (critical):

  • People must evacuate now.
  • Evacuation orders are issued when you are in danger.
  • Emergency situations can change rapidly and prompt an immediate evacuation order.
  • Evacuate immediately if you are located inside an order's boundaries and directed to evacuate.
  • Delaying your departure can put your life at risk and hinder emergency response efforts.
  • Follow the specific instructions provided by your local authorities during an evacuation.
  • Always prioritize your safety and the safety of those around you.

People should be ready to take care of themselves for at least three days. An emergency kit should have non-perishable snacks, granola bars and trail mix, and at least 72 hours worth of water and electrolytes — four litres of liquid per person, per day. It should have medical supplies, like bandages and antiseptic wipes, and medications — over the counter and prescription.

A copy of all personal documents, including IDs, social insurance numbers, citizenship papers, and banking and insurance information should be stored in the kit in a protective, sealable bag.

RELATED READING: Your wildfire evacuation checklist 

Where possible, people should pack enough cash to cover up to three days' worth of expenses. That includes a multi-tool, a battery-powered crank radio and flashlight, extra blankets, electronics with a vehicle charger along with books and portable toys and games.

The province recommends people check on their supplies to make sure nothing is expired; batteries are charged and documents and credit cards are updated.

Know your insurance policy

During any emergency it’s also important to know your insurance options and policy limits to understand what is protected. Residents should speak with their insurance agent about their specific needs or to answer any questions about their policy.

People should also write a detailed list of their belongings. Provinces, like Alberta, may have disaster financial assistance programs that may be able to reimburse them for uninsurable items.

Anyone who has to evacuate is advised to keep all receipts for their expenses.


What are additional living expenses? 

Guidance for wildfire evacuees returning home 

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