Residents of Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement, 70 kilometres south of High Level, are allowed back into their homes after a three-week evacuation order was officially lifted at 1 p.m. Thursday.

“The laughter of the kids was one of the biggest things that I noticed was missing,” said resident Joanne Ducharme, who stayed behind to cook for firefighters during the lengthy evacuation order.

Lori Wanuch, vice-chair of the settlement, adds, “We're happy to be bringing the people home. It's very exciting…they've been waiting for a month now to come home.”

Fourteen homes in the area were destroyed after the Chuckegg Creek wildfire doubled in size, forcing the hamlet of 700 residents to flee on May 29.

“I lost three quarter-sections of land to this fire and it wasn't very good,” said resident Ronnie Cardinal.

Before returning to their homes, residents were asked to register at the community arena where they received cleaning supplies and additional information on what to do next, including running their water for at least 20 minutes to flush the lines.

More than 9,000 people in various communities under mandatory evacuation orders are still out of their homes. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Bill Fortier