High Level residents given evacuation order
Published Monday, May 20, 2019 11:02AM MDT
Last Updated Monday, May 20, 2019 10:32PM MDT
The Town of High Level has evacuated roughly 4,000 residents as a 69,000-hectare fire burns just three kilometres away.
Mayor Crystal McAteer said the evacuation order was made at 4 p.m. Residents have been told to prepare to be evacuated for 72 hours, at which point officials will reevaluate the plan. A route has been set up to accomodate highway closures on Highways 58 and 88: residents are asked to leave town east on Highway 58, then south on Highway 88.
Premier Jason Kenney tweeted Monday night that he had spoken with McAteer, who told him the town had been successfully evacuated.
I have spoken with High Level Mayor McAteer, who reports that the town has been successfully evacuated, and that provincial @AlbertaAg crews are doing great work to assist. It seems that winds are cooperating for the time being. Thanks to all emergency workers who are engaged. https://t.co/oN2vtYUDVw— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) May 21, 2019
Premier Kenney added that firefighters and support crews from far away as Nova Scotia will be arriving in High Level by Wednesday to help fight the blaze.
Two reception centres have been set up in Slave Lake and High Prairie. Alberta Health Services is transporting patients from the town's Northwest Health Centre to facilities in Fort Vermilion, La Crete, Grande Prairie, Fairview and Peace River.
Another 750 residents of Bushe River are also evacuating.
"People are of course afraid because they remember the wildfires of Fort McMurray," McAteer said. "But we talked to a lot of the residents and reaffirmed that we were being proactive. I’m very optimistic with the amount of resources that we have there and the good intelligence that we’re getting."
Nearly 1,200 cots have been set up in Slave Lake for evacuees, with around 200 people registering in the town Monday night.
"I know how stressful this is, how worrisome it is and how fearsome it is," said Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman. "As a community that’s went through this before and know how tough that was for us and how those communities reached out to us in the past, we’ll find a way to help however many we can.”
Mackenzie County issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents in the south and southeast parts of High Level, as well as south of the Bushe River Reserve, earlier on Monday when the Town of High level declared a state of local emergency.
Some residents of High Level left the town for surrounding areas like Slave Lake before an evacuation order was even called, fearful of the blaze creeping closer to the town.
“The sky was purple, reddish and quite scary," said High Level resident Chrissy Grandjambe. "I wanted to pack up my kids and get them away from the scene, I didn’t want them to see the terror of the sky."
Four wildfires remain active in the High Level Forest Area.
Only one fire south of High Level, named the Chuckegg Creek Wildfire, is classified as out of control.
According to Alberta Wildfire, the blaze maintained a size of roughly 25,000 throughout Sunday but grew to 69,000 hectares by Monday afternoon.
Scott Elliot, incident commander with Alberta Wildfire and Agriculture and Forestry, said the area was experiencing "extreme burning conditions" but that an evacuation hadn't been called earlier because there was a comfortable buffer between the blaze and townsite.
"What we’ve noticed has happened overnight is the fire continues to spread at night, but what happened was the wind speed died down, and that allowed sort’ve the sides of the fire to start moving in a more meaningful way towards the community," Elliot said.
"Under these extreme conditions, it’s not uncommon to have fires grow as aggressively as this one has."
Officials are not expecing a change in conditions. Crews are are sprinkling residences along the perimeter of the town closest to the fire and setting up a perimeter with heavy equipment and airtankers in preparation.
About 64 firefighters have been assigned to High Level, plus an estimated 40 members from the municipality to help.
An alert has been issued for the area regarding a power outage in the north and east regions, including the of Town of High Level, First Nation Reserves and all of Mackenzie County. ATCO estimated over 7,000 customers are affected by disruptions caused by the fire.
The county has enacted a voluntary evacuation order for those living north of High Level. Mackenzie County has set up a reception centre in La Crete.
Fire update: Edson
Highway 16 west of Edmonton was reopened midnight on Monday after officials closed it the day before due to an “out of control” wildfire near Edson.
It was closed Sunday when a fire about 22 kilometres west of Edson and south of Marlboro jumped the highway and began to burn on both sides of the roadway.
An evacuation order was also put in place in Marlboro on Sunday, but rescinded the next morning at 9 a.m. Government authorities said those who lived in the area would remain on notice that they may need to evacuate again if the fire situation changes.
Checkpoints remain in place to ensure only residents enter the area. As well, a reception centre has been set up in Edson at the Best Western Hotel for Marlboro evacuees.
Evacuees can call 1-833-334-4630 for more information.
Fire update: Slave Lake
Slave Lake authorities continued to track two wildfires Monday about 30 kilometres north of the community near Highway 754.
Neither was considered a threat to the surrounding communities of Wabasca, Marten Beach or Slave Lake.
Alberta Wildfire said both grew throughout Sunday to 5,300 and 1,500 hectares respectively.
Officials said the larger and more northern fire was more “aggressive” and as a result, resources were relocated to that response. However, they also said “good progress” had been made on the southern blaze.
“With the help of airtankers, heavy equipment built fire guard on the east and west side and firefighters were working to secure the fire guard at the south end.”
Crews also dealt with two new wildfire starts, one of which was located north of Lubicon Lake. It was being held Monday afternoon at 4.8 hectares. The second was recorded in the Faust area Monday morning, and was extinguished later in the day at 9.7 hectares.
Since the beginning of March, 57 wildfires have been recorded in the Slave Lake Forests Area. More than 16,800 hectares have burned.
To see the status of any wildfire recorded in the province, visit Alberta Wildfire.
A list of current alerts can be found at Alberta Emergency Alert.
For more information on road closures and highway advisories, visit 511 Alberta.
The boundaries of an active fire ban for most of northern Alberta can be found at AlbertaFirebans.ca.
If you are experiencing health-related smoke issues, it is recommended you contact a doctor or Alberta Health Services.