Tuesday, 20 August, 2019

Wildfires close Alberta highways, prompts evacuations

The Chuckegg Creek wildfire near High Level grew to over 23,000 hectares Sunday Extreme wildfire danger in Slave Lake, Alberta
Patty Aguilar | 21 May, 2019, 22:29

The Government of Alberta is keeping a close eye on a major wildfire near the town of High Level.

Premier Jason Kenney said that if the evacuees are still displaced from their homes after 72 hours, the province will step in with additional supports.

High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer said the entire town of High Level, Alta., was successfully evacuated by 9:30 p.m. MT on Monday, adding that power feeds are compromised, meaning people could be away from their homes for as long as five days.

According to the town of Slave Lake, 650 High Level residents have already registered at the reception centre.

The town of High Level had been monitoring the progress of the fire over the last several days before the evacuation order was given on Monday afternoon.

The alert said the fire is burning west of Highway 35 and south of Highway 58.

Earlier in the day, the town warned on its website that people should fill up their vehicles and collect important documents in case they were ordered to leave at short notice.

So far some 4,000 people from High Level alone have packed up and left their homes.

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McAteer said the evacuation is being co-ordinated in zones.

Checkpoints were in place to prevent non-residents from entering the evacuation area.

"People are of course afraid because they remember the wildfires of Fort McMurray, but we talked to a lot of the residents and reaffirmed that we were being proactive", she said.

As meteorologists monitor weather patterns in the area to help firefighters battle the inferno, Wildfire Alberta Incident Commander Scott Elliot says it might be some time before crews get the upper hand. "These factors have limited our ability to access the fire in any sort of real meaningful way", Mr. Elliot said.

Slave Lake, where a reception centre has been set up for residents of High Level, was also evacuated because of a wildfire in 2011 that destroyed parts of the community.

Another blaze near High Level had citizens and officials on high alert.

Local fire crews took precautions to protect infrastructure, setting up sprinkler protection systems in town and at the nearby Tolko lumber mill.

The province says they have resources on standby to manage the fires should they escalate.

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