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Active wildfires burning within the Forest Protection Area of Alberta are shown in a Friday, May 12, 2023HO/The Canadian Press

Officials are warning more wildfires in Alberta are expected this weekend, as hot weather persists and thousands of residents remain under evacuation orders.

There were 83 active fires Saturday in the province, including 21 deemed out of control, said Josée St-Onge, a spokesperson with Alberta Wildfire, during a news conference. That is up from 76 active wildfires on Friday afternoon.

“While we have seen cooler temperatures and some rain in previous days, it is not enough to make a significant difference on these large wildfires,” Ms. St-Onge said. “Fire activity will pick up today.”

Bre Hutchinson of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency said approximately 16,520 people remained under evacuation orders throughout the province, and that the risk of new wildfires was high for the next few days. She advised people to be prepared to evacuate on short notice with essentials already packed.

What to expect in the days ahead with Alberta wildfires

So far, 443 wildfires in the province have burned close to 470,000 hectares this year, over 1,000 times more than the area burned at this time last year, according to the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard. Last weekend, the Alberta government declared a provincial state of emergency.

More than 1,500 firefighters have been deployed in the province, including 300 from Parks Canada, British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario, Yukon, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Oregon and Alaska. Another 200 firefighters from the U.S. are on their way, according to Ms. St-Onge.

The federal government announced Thursday that the military will be deploying 300 soldiers to help. 200 of them are already at work in the Drayton Valley and Grand Prairie area, Ms. St-Onge said.

Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Nate Horner, said that ranchers under evacuation orders should contact their municipality if they want to check on their livestock.

“People need to understand that their rescue wouldn’t be possible as we try to allocate resources to save potential human life,” he said.

The City of Grande Prairie posted on social media Saturday that a member of the public operating their own dozer “came close to running over fire crews” at work on a wildfire.

“Members of the general public, no matter how well-intentioned, cannot conduct unsanctioned acts and interrupt a fire response,” the city wrote.

Environment Canada warned in a statement Saturday that wildfire smoke “is causing poor air quality and reduced visibility in many areas” of northern Alberta.

“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations,” the statement says, adding that people with lung or hear disease, seniors, children and pregnant people were at higher risk, along with those who work outdoors.

Environment Canada advised to monitor for symptoms such as shortness of breath or coughing, to stay inside if possible, and to use N95 respirator masks to reduce exposure to the fine particles in smoke.

The federal agency also warned of high, unseasonal weather nearing 30 C in the region this weekend and into Monday, which are expected to increase wildfire risk.

Climate hazards, including heatwaves and wildfire activity, are projected to intensify across North America, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body of hundreds of climate scientists.

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