May 9 at 10 a.m. – Roads open, wildfires danger moderate to high, but could change quickly – fire ban and OHV restriction still in effect.
This article was updated on May 9 at 10:20 a.m. – Alberta Wildfire Slave Lake Forest Area updates at https://srd.web.alberta.ca/slave-lake-area-update. People can also look at the fire map, here. The Town of Slave Lake will be doing wildfire updates at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m. through its Voyent Alert system, its Facebook page, and the older email alert system. People can register for Voyent Alert by clicking here. People can received emails, texts, or download an app. The M.D. of Lesser Slave River has Wildfire Status updates on its website, to go to these click here. Road closures are available at 511 Alberta. A list of active wildfire evacuations and alerts are here.
On May 8, the firefighters made good progress on the out of control wildfires, says an Slave Lake Forest Area update from Alberta Wildfire on May 8 at 9 p.m. The fire ban and OHV restriction remain in effect (details at the bottom of the article). While the fire danger was moderate to high in the Slave Lake Forest Area, the situation could change quickly, because there is still a lot of fuel out in the woods.
Alberta wildfire also urges people not to fly drones over the wildfire. This is dangerous and illegal, fines can be as high as $15,000.
As of 10 a.m. on May 9, all road closures in the Slave Lake Forest Area had been lifted. However, Hwy. 33 from Hwy. 2 to south of Swan Hills still had a 50 km speed limit. The situation can change quickly, so people should check 511 Alberta, before traveling.
Slave Lake Forest Area Wildfire information – as of May 8 at 9 p.m. from Alberta Wildfire. The wildfire map is updated more often. It is here.
There was one new wildfire May 8. SWF072 is 0.01 hectares and is being held. The fire map says it is southwest of High Prairie. The cause is under investigation.
Firefighters were able to make good progress on the fighting the out of control wildfires with the cool weather again today (May 8). The fire intensity remain reduced and very little growth occurred on all wildfires.
Grizzly Complex – SWF063, SWF064, and SWF057
SWF063 is located south of High Prairie. Firefighters with a Nodwell worked to extinguish ground fires in East Prairie Metis Settlement. Firefighters are also worked on the northwest end extinguishing the edge of the wildfire along the fire guard while heavy equipment group continued to build fire guard west and east of Highway 749. There are 22 firefighters, four heavy equipment groups and six helicopters working on the wildfire.
SWF057 is located on the southwest side Grizzly Ridge Wildland Provincial Park. Heavy equipment continued to build fire guard along west to south side of the wildfire. A fire guard has been completed on the north side. There are ten firefighters, three equipment groups and seven helicopters working on the wildfire.
Firefighters continue to monitor SWF064 and there was no substantial growth.
Nipisi Complex SWF059,SWF060, SWF061 (extinguished) and SWF070 (extinguished)
SW060 is located on the east side of Utikuma Lake. Helicopters were bucketing on the southwest and north end of the wildfire. Heavy equipment continued to build fire guard on the north side of Utikuma Lake on the west side of Highway 88 while firefighters worked along the fire guards to extinguish the edge of the wildfire. Firefighters worked on setting up sprinklers along the FireSmart fire guard north of the Whitefish Lake First Nation. Firefighters extinguished SWF070 and SWF061. There are 35 firefighters, three heavy equipment groups and nine helicopters working on the wildfire.
Wildfire operations for SWF068 located northwest of Peavine Metis Settlement will be transferred over to the Peace River Forest Area. A firefighters in helicopters flew the wildfire and noted minimal growth and subdued fire intensity.
Since January 1, 2023, in the Slave Lake Forest Area, there have been 72 wildfires which have burned 126,591.04 hectares.
Since January 1, 2023, in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta, there have been 408 wildfires which burned 391,791.49 hectares.
The wildfire danger will be MODERATE to HIGH in the Slave Lake Forest Area
Although, the temperatures are cooler and there has been some rain, the amount is not enough to improve conditions significantly or for the long term. The fine fire fuels such as dead grass require only a few hours of warm temperatures to dry out and become flammable.
The fire ban and off highway vehicle restriction remain in effect and firefighters urge everyone to continue using caution and to report wildfires immediately by calling 310-FIRE(3473).
For Tuesday, temperatures are expected to 16-21 degrees and winds will be light from the northwest 10 kilometres per hour.
Previous update – wildfire summary – April 30 to May 7
by Pearl Lorentzen – article courtesy Lakeside Leader Slave Lake
From April 30 to May 7, around 125,418 hectares (ha.) burnt in the Slave Lake Wildfire Area. The wildfire danger went from very high to extreme. There were 24 new wildfires during that week. This was a province-wide problem, with 176 new wildfires across Alberta. On May 6, the government of Alberta declared a state of emergency.
By Monday, May 8, the weather had cooled and the wildfires slowed, but the wildfire danger remained extreme and a fire ban and OHV restriction was in effect. None of these wildfires were close Slave Lake, but various communities were evacuated and High Prairie was on evacuation alert.
As of Monday, May 8 at 8 a.m., the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard said Slave Lake Forest Area had eight out of control wildfires and five under control. Some of these wildfires were part of the Nipisi and Grizzly complexes. which started on May 4.
Originally, the Grizzly complex had four wildfires. However, one was extinguished. The other three grew, with SWF 063 causing evacuations of East Prairie Métis Settlement, Enilda, and part of southwestern Big Lakes County, and getting within seven kilometres of High Prairie. SWF 057 closed part of Hwy. 33 (Hwy. 33 was reopened with a 50 km speed limit as of May 8).
Nipisi wildfires caused the evacuation of Whitefish Lake First Nation (Atikameg and Whitefish River) and closed part of Hwy. 88 and Hwy. 750.
Whitefish had to leave the community to the south, because starting on May 5 Hwy. 88 was closed from the 750 access to km 80. The Whitefish evacuation was caused by the Nipisi complex (SWF 059, SWF 060, SWF 061, and SFW 070) near the Hwy. 750 and Hwy. 88 intersection. The one closest to the highway and largest (SWF 060) was 15,880 ha. by May 8 at 8 a.m.
The wildfire didn’t threaten any other communities, but closed Hwy. 750 to just north of Gift Lake Métis Settlement, which was still accessible from the south.
Gift Lake Métis Settlement was without power, says a May 6 Metis Settlements General Council social media post.
As of the evening of May 7, Slave Lake had hosted around 600 wildfire evacuees, says Town of Slave Lake Mayor Frankie Ward in an update. They will be in Slave Lake for a few more days, as the power is off in their community.
Slave Lake was also ready to house High Prairie evacuees, but this didn’t happen.
The afternoon and evening of May 4, the four Grizzly Ridge wildfires were visible from Slave Lake. However, the closest one SWF 057 was roughly 37 km southwest of Slave Lake in the Grizzly Ridge Wildland Park. In the first report, it was 4,000 ha. On May 8 at 8 a.m., the Slave Lake Wildfire Dashboard said it was 8,136 ha.
During the weekend, wildfires moved northwest. SWF 057 closed Hwy. 33 from south of Swan Hills to the Hwy. 2 entrance.
“SWF 057 did not cross Highway 33,” says the May 7 Slave Lake Wildfire Update.
SWF 063 started in the southwest Swan Hills. Growing northwest, it is caused evacuations mentioned above. It burnt some homes in East Prairie Métis Settlements. By May 8, it was 56,600 ha.
As of May 7 at 9:15 p.m., the Big Lakes Wildfire evacuation order was downgraded to an one-hour evacuation alert. This applied to the whole county. Hwy. 749 remains closed because of downed power lines. Large areas had no power or natural gas services.
Over the weekend, the Town of Slave Lake sent out wildfire alerts at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m. through its Voyent Alert system and on social media. During that time, none of the wildfires threatened Slave Lake.
Slave Lake is housing wildfire evacuees. Therefore, the MRC is closed to the public. See later in the article for details on how you can volunteer. The Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre is also looking for food bank donations, toiletries, and clothing donations to help the evacuees (full list later in the article under donations).
Volunteer to help evacuees:
The afternoon of May 5, evacuees from Whitefish Lake First Nation and Atikameg came to Slave Lake, because wildfires. They will remain until power has returned to their community. Slave Lake is also ready to house more evacuees should that be necessary.
Fire ban and OHV restriction
As of May 5 and ongoing, both Slave Lake Forest Area and the Town of Slave Lake have a fire ban, including an OHV restriction. Under this fire ban:
All existing Fire Permits are suspended (or cancelled)
No new Fire Permits will be issued
- All outdoor wood fires are banned, including wood campfires on public lands, wood campfires on private land and provincial campgrounds
- Backyard firepits
- BBQ charcoal briquettes
- The use of fireworks and exploding targets
- The recreational use of off-highway vehicles (OHV) on public lands, including designated OHV trails
- Propane/natural gas-powered appliances
- Open flame oil devices (e.g., turkey deep fryers, tiki torches)
- Indoor wood fires contained within a device with a chimney and spark arrestor
- All appliances must be CSA approved and used per manufacturer’s standards
- Indigenous people when using an OHV for traditional purposes. Traditional purposes are hunting, fishing, and trapping – including the use of an OHV to travel to the location(s) for these purposes.
- Essential industry-related activities requiring the use of OHVs.
- Off-highway vehicle use is still permitted on private lands.