Alberta declares wildfire emergency

Wildfire season has arrived early in Alberta this year, forcing the province to declare a state of emergency over the weekend and expand evacuation efforts.

Driving the news: Premier Danielle Smith declared a state of emergency on Saturday, granting the government extraordinary powers to manage the crisis.

  • As of Saturday evening, there were 110 fires burning across Alberta, with 32 listed as out of control.
  • Nearly 25,000 people across 20 communities have been evacuated in recent days, and another 5,300 residents are under evacuation warnings.

Why it’s happening: Alberta’s unusually warm and dry spring has created ideal conditions for fires to break out. 

  • “Temperatures have been 10 to 15 degrees above normal for a little while now,” one Alberta Wildfire official told reporters. “We still don’t have green grass and leaves all over the province, which means that the ground is very dry.”

Why it matters: The wildfires are “unprecedented” for this time of year, according to Alberta officials.

  • Over the past five years, the province has seen at most around 800 hectares of land burned by this time of year, whereas there were 122,000 hectares burning this weekend.

Zoom out: The fires come in the midst of a neck-and-neck provincial election scheduled for May 29th—both incumbent Premier Smith and opposition leader Rachel Notley agreed the vote may have to be delayed.