Everything about the wildfires that are forcing Albertans out of their homes
The 2019 Alberta wildfires have taken a serious toll on the northern part of our nation’s fourth largest province.
As we’ve already made it through nearly two weeks of flames engulfing thousands of hectares of land, many wonder when the latest natural disaster will come to an end, hopeful that it be sooner rather than later.
As of May 22, more than 130,000 hectares having been caught ablaze already. With many fires across the northern part of the province being deemed “out of control,” estimates vary as to just how much land the fires currently span.
A brief wildfire history
These are not the first fires that Alberta has faced, and as of now, far from the worst. Since 2011, wildfires have easily cost the province over 10 billion dollars. As far as severity goes, the 2019 fires pale in comparison to those of a few years back, at the nearby 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires.
The 2017 British Columbia wildfires didn’t lay off either, with Central and South Interior B.C., as well as western parts of western Alberta. Those fires, which led to the evacuation of 65,000 people across both provinces. With those fires costing an estimated $586 million, the cost of wildfires has been more than a pretty penny.
2017 led to more destruction in the form of wildfires, with a smaller fire that caused 14 homes to be evacuated on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. Those fires were believed to be caused by downed power lines during a storm.
British Columbia received the worst from fires in 2018, when 1.2 million hectares caught fire in what was the largest total burn-area in any B.C. wildfire season, far surpassing the fires of 2017.
Heading into the 2019 wildfire season, officials knew of the potential risks that they were up against. To compare to last year’s May long weekend, Alberta Wildfire had recorded 119 wildfires, with 67% of them being caused by people.
According to the timeline of Alberta Wildfire, a website which provides updates and information of wildfire status’ and issues related to wildfires across Alberta, the first signs of trouble appeared on May 12, 22 kilometres northwest of Notikewin in the Peace River Forest Area. A 778-hectare wildfire garnered attention and was accessed to be a potential threat, as high-risk conditions, such as windy weather and dry conditions, were already at play.
Fire bans and off-highway vehicle restrictions were put into place for areas in northern Alberta in an effort to curve the threat of wildfires, especially manmade ones.
On May 18, the fire continued to grow in size, as a fire labelled HWF042 located about 20 kilometres south of the town of High Level. This fire, at about 1,817 hectares in size, was also classified as “out of control” due to the high winds coming from the southeast.
At the time, Alberta Wildfire reported that there was no threat to the community of High Level, as firefighters along with air support from helicopters and air tankers were working against the fire.
While other fires popped up around the province, newly elected Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attempted to console and assure the province that the necessary precautions were being taken.
“I’m here at the provincial operation centre, which is where the government of Alberta, along with federal agencies, coordinate responses to emergencies such as the wildfires that are happening right now at four locations in Northwestern Alberta,” stated Kenney alongside the Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Kaycee Madu, as well as Devin Dreeshen, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
It was around this time that the community of Bushe River was also forced to evacuate, as ordered by Chief and Council of the Dene Tha First Nation.
It was only days after when the same community of High Level was forced to evacuate their homes, making 4,000 flee their town to ensure their own safety. Many from High Level went to the town of Slave Lake, with others being directed to communities hundreds of kilometres south of where they were, such as High Prairie, Grande Prairie, as well as Misery Mountain Ski Resort.
Meanwhile, the Chuckegg Creek wildfire, an inferno that swallowed 25,334 hectares overnight, totalling 650 km² of forest, became a very serious concern.
At this point, the British Columbia Wildfire Service sent over 250 staff to their neighbouring province of Alberta in an attempt to stop out the unruly blaze. The 250 staff included 230 firefighters, 14 supervisors, a 19 person incident management team, and three agency representatives in hopes to slow the fire in its tracks. All of this at the request of the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, who are responsible for sharing of firefighting resources between B.C. and other jurisdictions.
Premier Kenney stated that he had been briefed that the number of active fires currently in Alberta is “at or just slightly above the five-year average.”
Kenney went on to remind Albertans that forest fires are a natural occurrence in northwest Canada, and officials said that the High Level fire is the first of its kind in around 80 years.
“Part of this is just burning off decades of accumulated fuel,” Kenney said. “It’s inevitable, it’s going to happen at some point. What’s different now in 2019 is that we have more built up communities in frontier areas like this.”
Where there’s fire, there’s smoke
Throughout the fires, air quality was a serious concern, because as we all know, breathing in smoke is not good for you!
An air quality advisory was put in effect, with officials advising those with breathing conditions to stay indoors and find well-ventilated places, including those in Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories. This fire had now not only affected Alberta, but B.C., and the Northwest Territories as well.
Ontario also answered Alberta’s call for assistance, displaying over 80 personnel to help with the forest fire situation.
Fires continue to pop up
On May 26, yet another fire, this time 14 kilometres southeast of Trout Lake, spawned overnight. This time, a 300-hectare fire, also being deemed out of control. Due to this, the Peerless Trout First Nation had to issue an emergency alert, as fires rapidly approached the Chipewyan Lake Village, Bigstone Cree Nation, and all residents from the northern border of the County of Northern Lights. More information can be found live, here.
With wildfires continuing to roar in Alberta, and prompting more evacuation orders on Wednesday, the Kenney government has officially declared the situation both a public emergency and a disaster.
For a live map of where the 2019 Albertan wildfires are impacting which communities, click here.
Meghan Markle is looking into real estate in the prestigious West Vancouver market according to The Sun. One particular mansion has caught her eye: a beautiful 6,900-square foot waterfront home selling at just over $35 million dollars according to the Vancouver Sun.
There are a total of six bedrooms and five bathrooms in the four-story mansion complete with full-length panoramic windows that offer breathtaking views of both the ocean and the city skyline.
Security is clearly a concern for the rogue royals but it won’t be a concern at this estate which is surrounded by gates, screen hedges and a 20-foot beachside wall behind the property.
“The neighbourhood is a known haven for wealthy people and has a very laid-back atmosphere. I’m sure they would be very happy there, and they would be welcomed with open arms.” said one estate agent source. “Meghan has expressed an interest in this beautiful house. It would be perfect for her, Harry and little Archie.”
The house is located in Kitsilano, one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in Vancouver. The residence is 108-years-old runs along a street of prized billionaire’s dubbed “Golden Miles.”
“The area is particularly sought after by super-rich and image-conscious young achievers.” said one real estate expert. “But best of all for Harry and Meghan, it’s quiet and locals respect each other and value their privacy. They’d fit in very well.”
Canadian billionaire founder of the uber-trendy Lululemon Athletica yoga gear brand, Chip Wilson, would be a neighbour should the couple decide to buy. His mansion is worth about $64 million. Meghan Markle has been public about her love for yoga, pilates, and the Lululemon brand.
The new mansion is a long way from the Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of Home Park, Windsor. The Queen is apparently “privately furious” at the couple for the money spent to renovate the Frogmore Cottage prior to the decision to move to Canada. Frogmore has been the home of the couple ever since their publicly-funded wedding that came in at $40 million dollars. The Queen is said to be “privately furious” at the money spent on Frogmore Cottage renovations following Prince Harry and Meghan’s announcement they are moving abroad. The royal couple have lived there since their publicly-funded $40-million-dollar wedding.
General trade union Unifor’s president Jerry Dias was arrested by Regina Police Monday evening during a workers’ demonstration against Federated Co-op Ltd., a wholesaling, manufacturing, marketing and administrative co-operative in the agricultural industry.
“We’re standing up for workers’ pensions. We’re standing up for workers’ rights. And this is how they treat use here. We’ll stand every day to defend workers,” said western regional director of Unifor Gavin McGarrigle in a short video posted by Unifor’s Twitter account. The footage shows Dias and McGarrigle being dragged away by Regina Police.
In the tweet Unifor describes Federated Co-op Ltd. as “greedy” and called for people to “BoycottCoop”.
“FCL has made it clear for many months that we respect the collective bargaining process and have on a number of occasions presented modifications to our proposals. In response, Unifor 594 has demanded that FCL agree to an ‘irrevocable clause’ guaranteeing no changes – now or ever – to the defined benefits (DB) pension plan before any further talks could take place,” said FCL president of the board Sharon Alford in a statement, saying the strike was caused by Unifor.
“We simply cannot agree to that demand, and as a result, no meaningful bargaining has taken place since Unifor 594 stopped talking on Sept. 26, 2019 (including during the mediation that took place in October). Again, it is worth noting that the CRC did not commence construction of business continuity facilities on-site until the final, Unifor-driven break down of mediation in October,” Alford continued.
“Unifor members have a right to picket; Co-op has a right to conduct business. In an emotionally charged environment, there will be disagreements, but the Regina Police Service continues to communicate very closely with both parties in the dispute,” read a statement sent out by Regina Police Service Monday before the arrest.
Regina Police also advised motorists to stay away from the area where the workers were picketing was causing traffic delays.
Dias is a prominent union president who has previously said “f**k you” to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and attacked Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on behalf of thousands of journalists and other media industry workers when Unifor actively pursued a bailout for the industry from the federal government.
Unifor is a very influential and large union in Canada representing tens of thousands of workers, including in telecommunications, media, transportation (road, air, rail and marine), forestry, energy, mining, fisheries, construction, manufacturing, education, health care, etc.
A new poll has shown that more than 50 percent of Canadians think that 2019 was a bad year for Canada, according to Global News.
The poll captured the opinions of Canadians on a wide range of subjects, including climate change and the economy, along with other minor issues. The most pressing issues, however, were subjects like climate change and wealth inequality, which Canadians are particularly pessimistic about.
on top of this, a significant amount of Canadians (29 percent) said that they were lonely “most of the time.” Another cause for concern was global warming, where 75 percent of Canadians expected global temperatures to increase.
Despite these results, the Vice President of Ipsos still thinks Canadians are feeling positive about life in Canada: “You know, while some things that Canadians are worried about have met these negative predictions … I do think that on the whole, they are feeling positive.”
This accompanies the sentiment of positivity that Canadians feel about 2020. Over three-quarters of Canadians feel that the new year will produce better results than the last year.
Nevertheless, the majority of Canadians feel that under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the economy will get worse in 2020. This negativity pales in comparison to other countries, who have expressed a far more negative outlook.
Beloved Canadian Mike Sloan, who made his fight with cancer public on Twitter, has passed away.
Sloan had been suffering from Stage 4 Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer, initially being given only six months to live, outliving the diagnosis by four months.
Sloan was known for his clever observations, which included everything from his cat to Canadian politics.
The deeply personal tweets gave insight into what it was like to stare death in the face, and the perspective of someone who knows their days are numbered.
The London, Ontario native was followed by several Canadian personalities and political figures, including This Hour‘s Rick Mercer, Arlene Dickinson, Bill Morneau, and Michelle Rempel.
In a tweet, it was announced that Sloan passed peacefully at 1:25 pm EST via MAID (medically assisted in dying.) His last words were “Tell Chub (his cat) I love him.”