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'We're very happy': Fox Creek, Little Smoky, Swan Hills residents prepare to return home after evacuation orders lifted


A mandatory evacuation order for the town of Fox Creek has been lifted, and residents can return home.

Residents are asked to obey all traffic laws and posted signage and not to slow down or stop on the highway as crews are still working in the area.

Additionally, residents are asked to make sure their vehicles are fueled, they have a few days worth of groceries, and to empty waste from trailers before returning to town.

Residents will be required to check in at the Fox Creek Community Hall.

A detailed reentry booklet will be provided at the community hall.

Access to downtown will be limited on Wednesday, and roads will open for normal traffic flow at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Fox Creek Hospital will be open when residents return and EMS services are available, but those with severe medical conditions should consider delaying their reentry until full hospital services resume.

Fox Creek Mayor Sheila Gilmour says it's a good day for residents.

"Everyone is so happy to see their homes and get back into their houses. So people are pretty happy today that they get to head out and sleep in their own beds tonight," she told CTV News Edmonton on Wednesday.

"The fire is still there, the threat to town is, we don’t need to worry that there’s any kind of immediate threat, obviously we wouldn’t be going home if there was, but we do need to be vigilant that there still is a forest fire there."

Gilmour said a bridge was burned at a campground near town, but no structures in Fox Creek were destroyed.

"We never lost power, so that was also another great thing. We’re pretty fortunate in those circumstances."

Firefighters are still fighting the Eagle Complex, two fires burning near the community.

The fire is about one kilometre from Fox Creek, but officials say it hasn't moved closer in recent days.

"They are still technically classified as out of control, but we have seen a big difference in the fire activity on these fires," said Christie Tucker of Alberta Wildfire at the provincial wildfire update on Wednesday.

"The fire has not moved any closer to the community, it is still approximately one kilometre, but the main difference there is the amount of ground they’ve been able to cover."

Tucker says firefighters have made significant progress on a fireguard in the community, as well as putting out hotspots in the fire area, thanks in part to Canadian soldiers who are also working in the area.

"It has been a lot of work on the ground since where we were a week ago," she said.

Stacy Hanlon was packing up his RV on Wednesday and getting ready to go home along with his wife, three children, and two dogs.

He said after being away from home for nearly three weeks, packing up is a considerable effort.

"We only packed for three days to leave home. We accumulated a fair bit of clothes and laundry and food along the way," he said.

Hanlon said his kids are looking forward to getting home to play baseball.

"We had a few teams reach out to us in Whitecourt, and that provided a little bit of normalcy during the evacuation."

The evacuation order for the hamlet of Little Smoky was also lifted Wednesday. 


A mandatory evacuation order for the town of Swan Hills was lifted on Wednesday morning, and residents can return home.

A four-hour evacuation alert is still in place for the community, and officials say residents must be prepared to leave at any time.

Swan Hills residents at the evacuation reception centre in Barrhead.

When arriving back in town, residents are asked to follow all directions given by law enforcement or town officials, and any signage that may be posted.

Visit the town of Swan Hills website for more information.

Swan Hills resident Shane Simard spoke to CTV News Edmonton outside the reception centre for evacuees in Barrhead on Wednesday.

"Going from a house to living in the camper is a little hard. Going from a lot of room to no room when you’ve got three boys kicking around," he said.

"We're happy. The boys are excited. It’s going to be nice to get home and get everything back going to normal."

While he's happy to be going home, Simard says he's grateful for the hospitality his family received in Barrhead.

"They treated everybody really good and pulled out all the stops really for everyone."

Cody Alexander expressed similar sentiments.

"It's been pretty up and down, all over the place, getting relocated and evacuated has been very challenging, but we're getting through it," he said.

"I'm very happy that we’re going back. Hopefully we’re done with the whole wildfire stuff and it doesn’t flare back up."


Officials say cooler temperatures and precipitation over recent days have helped firefighters battling the fires.

"The extreme rate of growth we saw on these wildfires earlier this month has now slowed. Over the past two days firefighters have been able to make significant progress on wildfires on the landscape," Tucker said.

"Thanks to these conditions, only one new wildfire has been detected in Alberta since yesterday."

As of 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday there were 65 wildfires burning in the forest protection area of Alberta.

Seventeen of those fires are classified as out of control.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb, Nicole Weisberg, and Miriam Valdes-Carletti Top Stories

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