Image
© Ray Petlock
The Town of Slave Lake has declared a state of emergency as wildfires force 260 people from their homes
The number of evacuated residents near Slave Lake is climbing rapidly as forest fires continue to rage out of control near the community. So far five homes and ten other buildings have been destroyed while strong winds continue to hamper firefighting efforts.

Close to 1,000 people have been forced from their homes since the fires broke out Saturday afternoon. Initially, about 260 people were evacuated from the Poplar Lane and Mitsue areas but Sunday afternoon, another 700 residents were ordered out of the area because of another fire burning southwest of the community.

Displaced residents are being sent to a Red Cross reception centre at Northern Lakes College. Two schools in the area are being set up as temporary shelters for evacuees.

The Town of Slave Lake has declared a state of emergency. The latest evacuation order affects residents in the Wagner, Widewater, Bayer Road, Sawridge Reserve West, Canyon Creek and Assineau areas.

The first fire broke out to the southwest of Slave Lake, at about noon on Saturday. Officials say the fire has since affected 900 hectares of land and is moving westward.

Fire crews are also working to bring a second blaze under control, to the east of Slave Lake in the Poplar Lane and Mitsue area. Winds upwards of 70 kilometres per hour have made it difficult for fire crews to control the situation.

Highway 2, both east and west of Slave Lake, is shut down to traffic. The highway west of the community is closed to allow for the evacuation of residents while the highway east of town is closed as smoke is causing poor visibility.

There are no reported injuries.

Slave Lake is located 250 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Fire conditions are "extreme" in Alberta, because of dry weather and high winds.

There are about 70 wildfires throughout the province, with the one near Slave Lake considered the worst.