Alberta wildfires: 25 homes destroyed in Yellowhead County as Edson residents return home

Alberta wildfires: 25 homes destroyed in Yellowhead County as Edson residents return home

The mayor of Yellowhead County told Motorcycle accident toronto today on Monday that at least 25 homes have been destroyed by wildfire.

Wade Williams said the properties were in Shining Bank and south of Wildwood and Evansburg.

A home in Shining Bank, Alta., May 8, 2023, which was destroyed by wildfire.

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An evacuation order remains in place for the far eastern and southern sections of Yellowhead County, including the hamlets of Evansburg and Wildwood.

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“There is still a lot of smoke in the area. It’s too dangerous to open highways, so we have to get those fires under control,” Williams said Sunday night.

“Above that, our power, gas, water and sewer are not functioning in either one of those two hamlets, so that’s going to take us some time.”

A property near Wildwood, in Yellowhead County, Alta., on Monday, May 8, 2023, destroyed by wildfires.

Courtesy: Lyle Letawsky

“The evacuation of Evansburg and Wildwood will remain in effect for now,” he reiterated Monday.

“We still have a lot of issues that need to be worked out before re-entry can happen.”

Yellowhead County area, including Edson, Evansburg, Shining Bank, Wildwood and Entwistle.

Credit: Google maps

While residents there will have to wait to return home, more than 8,000 people in Edson were allowed back Monday. Many have been out since Friday, when an out-of-control wildfire prompted an evacuation order for the area.

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The evacuation order from Marlboro to the Chip Lake area including the town of Edson was lifted at 8 a.m. Monday and the Yellowhead Highway from Hinton to Edson reopened.

Click to play video: 'Alberta wildfires: Edson residents prepare to go back home Monday'

Alberta wildfires: Edson residents prepare to go back home Monday

“I’m happy to be home,” Bill Lyons said. He said the last several days “haven’t been horrible but you know, it’s just nice to be home.”

For many, it marks the end of three consecutive mornings waking up in parking lots, hotel rooms, on cots in community gyms and on the hard ground in a dome of nylon tenting.

“Two nights in the tent. We finally got a hotel room,” said Lindsay Austin, surrounded by his four children and a myriad of furry friends. “It will be nice to sleep in a bed … It’s been a little nerve-wracking.”

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“I want to be at home. I’m worried about what’s going on,” said 17-year-old Lakaia Austin. “There’s been no settling.”

Click to play video: 'Hundreds of Edson evacuees camping in Hinton parking lot'

Hundreds of Edson evacuees camping in Hinton parking lot

Shuttle busses will be available to transport people from evacuation centres in both Jasper and Hinton.

Drivers are being encouraged to stagger their re-entry plans to avoid the bumper-to-bumper gridlock experienced during the evacuation.

The mayor cautioned it’s going to take time to get services up and running again including grocery stores, gas stations and the hospital, which was completely emptied of people on Friday.

“We got up early at around 6:30 and decided to go back as soon as they let us,” said gas station owner Gurman Brar. “We came back and started opening the store.”

A new reception centre has been set up in Edson.

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Edson wildfire evacuation and re-entry map, May 7, 2023.

Facebook: Town of Edson


Both mayors spent much of Sunday meeting with residents, who have a lot of questions about a lack of resources to battle the large out-of-control fires, the largest on Sunday measuring 80,000 hectares — roughly the size of New York City.

“Myself and Mayor Zahara, along with our teams, we’ve been on the phone non-stop to government officials, our MLAs, with the RMA, the EMA (emergency management agency) … to try to get some more help and to get this state of emergency declared.”

Mayor Kevin Zahara of Edson and Mayor Wade Williams talking to evacuees in Jasper on Sunday.

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The province declared a state of emergency Saturday afternoon.

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“Yeah, it was too late,” Williams said. “But on top of that, we have 103 fires burning within the province. I’m not going to stand here and start ditching people because everybody had a lot going on.”

Still, he said the county has had 13 wildfires burning in its communities, a situation that has been very hard to manage.

“Do we feel like we were left a little bit high and dry? Yes, we certainly do, and residents certainly do,” Williams said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta premier assures province wildfire response adequate amid budget cuts'

Alberta premier assures province wildfire response adequate amid budget cuts

“You can always use more help,” Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara said. “I think provincially, if we look at the situation, we definitely need more resources within the province of Alberta.

“We need to be focused on ensuring our communities are safe,” he said.

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“But we’ve never seen dry conditions like this so early in the spring.”

Click to play video: 'Parkland and Yellowhead county residents allowed to return home'

Parkland and Yellowhead county residents allowed to return home

Temperatures are forecast to soar again mid-week and despite the evacuation order being lifted, nobody is celebrating just yet, knowing this crisis is far from over.

“The rain has really helped, and the humidity and the cooler temperatures, and it’s given time for crews to protect the community. We have a lot of apparatus in town ready to respond to any emergencies, so we feel it’s safe to re-enter and get people back home,” Zahara said Sunday night.

“We’re very fortunate the winds changed. It was blowing directly towards the town of Edson just a few days ago. The wind shifted (Saturday) and crews have been working hard trying to stop that fire, putting breaks in and other methods. We’re very happy to see we’re in a much better situation.”

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Click to play video: 'Rural Alberta residents take wildfire fight into own hands'

Rural Alberta residents take wildfire fight into own hands

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