High Level area residents can go home Monday
Residents of the High Level area will be able to return home on Monday, exactly two weeks after they were ordered to evacuate.
“We have some excellent news today,” Mayor Crystal McAteer announced Sunday morning at the High Level forestry base.
“Yes, you can come home.”
Re-entry will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday. Gates will be open at the north and east sides of town, and residents will be given re-entry information packages.
McAteer said grocers, banks and the hospital are all operational again.
“Everything’s ready. So when you come back tomorrow, we’ll be very excited to see you.”
Dene Tha’ Chief James Ahnassay reminded those returning to be mindful of the emergency and wildfire crews that remain in the area.
“Wish you all a safe journey, and welcome home tomorrow.”
The evacuation order for High Level, surrounding Dene Tha’ communities and rural areas will be downgraded to an evacuation alert, meaning residents should be prepared to leave if the threat grows again.
“That’s no reason to panic,” Mackenzie County Reeve Josh Knelsen said.
“Hopefully nobody will have to go anywhere, but just to be ready to leave when all of a sudden the time comes, should the time come.”
The Chuckegg Wildfire was last measured at 279,551 hectares. On Saturday, the area received between five and 14 millimetres of precipitation but officials said a return of dry weather would revive fire conditions. Crews continue work to limit the fire's ability to progress further east with burn-offs, and remain active at several locations throughout the county.
Although 16 homes were destroyed in Paddle Prairie, firefighters have been able to prevent damage at High Level.
An estimated 385 Alberta Wildfire firefighters, 130 structural firefighters and 41 helicopters remain in the area.
“Things were looking very bad here a couple of weeks ago, and some remarkable structural work was done to build fire defenses around the community, but really what we see here is strong, local leadership,” Premier Jason Kenney said.
More information about the evacuation order being lifted is available on the Town of High Level website.
High Level will be joining a number of other communities that remain on an evacuation alert, including the community of La Crete, south of High Level.
Residents told CTV News on Sunday that waiting out the situation has been stressful.
"It makes us worried, obviously, but for now, we've got to wait and see what happens first," one resident said.
Another added, "They always said it would never happen to La Crete, right? But, they always said the Titanic wouldn't sink."
Further south, in the Slave Lake Forest Region, about 5,000 residents are still displaced.
Multiple fires in the area, which officials have named the McMillan Complex, totalled more than 216,000 hectares at last count.
The largest, at over 155,000 hectares, is kilometres away from Wabasca-Desmarais.
According to the Municipal District of Opportunity, firefighters continue to douse homes as a precaution.
Monday's forecast includes some precipitation, which officials hope will prevent the fire from spreading any further.