HIGH LEVEL, HIGH. – A city in northern Alberta and a nearby First Nation are being evacuated due to the threat of an invasive forest fire.
Thousands of people are told to leave High Level, as well as the Bushe River Reserve, via Highway 58 east of the communities, since roads to the south and west have already been closed due to the fire.
The Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several days, but it has grown substantially since Sunday, when it covered about 25,000 hectares, to an estimated 69,000 hectares on Monday.
At the time the evacuations were ordered, the flames were only about three kilometers from the High Level.
“The winds are pushing the smoke away from the High Level People, it seems very frightening on the horizon, but in the High Level People the sky is blue, sunny and windy,” Mayor Crystal McAteer said at a telephone press conference on Monday. . late.
Reception centers for evacuees have been established at High Prairie and Slave Lake, and officials are organizing transportation for residents who can not leave on their own.
McAteer said the evacuation is coordinating in the zones. People should expect to be away for 72 hours.
She said that about 4,000 high-level people were affected by the order, and another 750 from the Bushe River.
At the beginning of the day, the city warned on its website that people should fill their vehicles and collect important documents in case they were ordered to leave at short notice. The power has also been removed due to the fire, but it was expected to be restored on Monday night.
Mandatory evacuation orders for residents south and southeast of the city, and south of the Bushe River, were issued early Monday.
Provincial officials said the High Level evacuation would take up to eight hours, but since some people had already left, they said it could be completed sooner.
Alberta Health Services said it had evacuated 20 patients from the Northwest Health Center at High Level and moved them to other communities.
Scott Elliot, an incident commander with Alberta Wildfire, told the press conference that the forest fire was moving away from the High Level, but that city officials decided it was best for everyone to leave, since the flames were very near.
“If there was a subtle change in the direction of the wind, that would increase the possibility of a rapid fire spreading to the community,” Elliot said.
The crews are using sprinklers in structures on the edge of the city closest to the fire.
McAteer said that people were complying with the evacuation order.
“People, of course, are scared because they remember the Fort McMurray forest fires, but we talked to a lot of the residents and reaffirmed that we were being proactive,” he said.
A 2016 forest fire at Fort McMurray, Alta, destroyed a tenth of the city and some 88,000 people were forced to leave their homes.
Slave Lake, where a reception center for High Level residents was established, was also evacuated due to a forest fire in 2011 that destroyed parts of the community.
The Alberta government issued a ban on fire and restricted use of off-road vehicles in many parts of the province late last week due to forecasts indicating little precipitation and high winds.
Highway 16, an important route between Edmonton and Prince George B.C., was forced to close in both directions on Sunday when a forest fire crossed the road west of Edson, Alta., But was reopened early Monday.