Wildfires close Alberta highways, prompts evacuations

Cheryl Sanders
May 21, 2019

Smoke from the wildfire can be seen in High Level and Norbord and local fire departments are on hand to help fight the blaze as needed.

Alberta Health Services said it had evacuated 20 patients from the Northwest Health Centre in High Level and relocated them to other communities.

The out-of-control fire in the northwestern corner of Alberta expanded through the long weekend to cover 690 square kilometres, blocking two highways and burning as close as three kilometres to High Level, a town of about 3,100 people.

According to the town of Slave Lake, 650 High Level residents have already registered at the reception centre.

The Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several days, but grew substantially from Sunday, when it covered about 25,000 hectares, to an estimated 69,000 hectares on Monday.

The Town of High Level told residents on Monday to fill their gas tanks, gather important documents and prepare food and water before ultimately issuing the evacuation order.

The site also says there's no evacuation order so far but people should be prepared in case the fire worsens and there is a need to leave the area.

Premier Jason Kenney said that if the evacuees are still displaced from their homes after 72 hours, the province will step in with additional supports.

A map for the evacuation plan for the town of High Level, Alberta.

Highway 58 west of High Level was also closed with a detour in place via Zama Road.

"If there was a subtle shift in the wind direction, that would increase the likelihood of rapid fire spread towards the community", Elliot said.

Officials rescinded an evacuation order covering parts of the small community of Marlboro at 9 a.m. Monday morning.

"I'm very optimistic with the resources that we have here and the good intelligence we're getting, and our fire chief has been excellent with his crew. people are of course afraid, but they're leaving willingly", she told media Monday afternoon.

All 4,000 residents were ordered to evacuate around 4 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

The Alberta government issued a fire ban and restricted off-highway vehicle use for numerous parts of the province late last week due to forecasts that called for little precipitation and strong winds.

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