Skip to content

Western Canada braces for early heat wave, raising wildfire risk in Alberta and B.C.

Little to no precipitation on the horizon as west heats up heading into the weekend
Burnt out trucks from a wildfire sit on a property near Drayton Valley, Alta., Wednesday, May 10, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

Western Canada is bracing for an unseasonable heat wave and dry spell that will raise the risk of wildfires in Alberta and British Columbia over the coming days.

Environment Canada meteorologist John Cragg says there’s little to no precipitation on the horizon, save for some potential for thunderstorms in parts of Alberta before temperatures heat up heading into the weekend.

Cragg says the heat is coming from a “blocking pattern,” when the normal fluctuation of low and high pressures stops, and warm air flows into an area without the relief that usually comes from an influx of cooler northern air.

While the heat is expected to peak on Sunday or Monday, Clagg says there’s potential for the temperature-raising blocking pattern to return later next week.

The weather office is forecasting temperatures will hit 30 C and higher in parts of Alberta that are already grappling with early season wildfires.

The Alberta government declared a provincial state of emergency in response to fires that have forced thousands of people from their homes.

Alberta’s wildfire dashboard shows 76 active fires today, with most of the 23 fires classified as burning out of control clustered in the western half of the province.

Special air quality advisories have been issued in response to wildfire smoke for most of Alberta, as well as central and northeastern B.C.

Several communities are under mandatory evacuation orders as wildfires threaten nearby.

The temperature is expected to hit 31 C in Edmonton on Monday, 30 C in Peace River and 29 C in Grand Prairie.

The heat is expected to settle in Friday and intensify over the weekend in B.C., where there were more than 40 wildfires on Wednesday.

Environment Canada says the mercury will hit 28 C on Sunday and 30 on Monday in Fort St. John, where a 29-square-kilometre wildfire is burning nearby.

The Peace River Regional District has issued an evacuation order for several dozen properties northwest of Fort St. John, while others are on alert.

There are two other wildfires of note burning in the province, meaning they’re either highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety.

The BC Wildfire Service has measured one of those fires at 59 square kilometres, spanning the boundary between B.C. and Alberta.

The other is an 11-square-kilometre blaze east of the Village of McBride, southeast of Prince George, where the temperature is expected to hit 33 C on Sunday.

The weather office says temperatures are expected to be a few degrees cooler closer to the coast, hitting 26 C in Vancouver that day and 28 C in Victoria.

READ MORE: Fire danger continues to be ‘extreme’ in most parts of province: Alberta government

READ MORE: New B.C. wildfire regulations aim to prevent human-caused fires