On May 6, 2023, the province of Alberta declared a state of emergency due to multiple wildfires. There have also been multiple states of local emergency (SOLE) declared. Hot, dry, and windy conditions throughout many parts of the province have been producing volatile burning conditions. The province’s Premier – Danielle Smith – described the situation as an unprecedented crisis.
Recent stats indicate over 29,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, with thousands more on evacuation alert. At it’s worst, 110 fires were burning across the central and northern parts of the province, and thirty-six (36) of them were considered “out of control.” At the time of this writing, 83 active wildfires are still burning.
While wildfires, as their name suggests, do occur naturally in the wild, the average amount of territory that would normally have been burned at this of the year would be about 800 hectares in total. Since the beginning of 2023, Alberta has seen over 350,000 hectares of land set ablaze, with the most recent fires being a distressing escalation of this recent trend.
The effect this has on human life should not be underestimated. As mentioned before, droves of people have been forced to flee from their homes – whether due to poor air quality, the threat of oncoming flames, or the looming threat of power outages in whole towns, such as the Municipality of Jasper. And in rural areas, some farmers have been forced to leave their cattle behind as they’ve fled. They risk losing entire herds if the fires head in the wrong direction.
Though the situation is dire, help is on the way. The declaration of a state of emergency does allow the government more control and resources, in order to help smooth evacuation and response process. Hundreds of additional firefighters are due to arrive from Ontario and Quebec to assist the Albertans in controlling and quenching the flames. Some parts of the province have received a bit of rain, but weather forecasts point to a quick return to hot, dry conditions.
ADRA Canada and the Alberta Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are looking to mobilize some of our basic emergency response supplies to those in need. With Edmonton being one of the cities most majorly at risk from the fires, ADRA has reached out to the Red Willow Community Seventh-day Adventist Church. This church has undergone ADRA’s Disaster and Emergency Response (DER) training program and stands ready to use the church as a shelter for evacuees, to serve as a depot for emergency supplies, and to cooperate with the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre (PECC) should they request to use the church as an Emergency Operations Center.
At this time, we pray that God would keep the evacuees safe, spare the lives of innocent wildlife, protect the lands of indigenous communities, strengthen the emergency responders, and above all else send rain to the province of Alberta. We ask that others join us in this prayer.