Flames seen from burning wildfire in High Level, Alta. on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (Chris Dechant/Facebook)

Flames seen from burning wildfire in High Level, Alta. on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (Chris Dechant/Facebook)

Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nation

Fire officials say winds continue to be favourable as crews battle a large wildfire burning a few kilometres from a northern Alberta town.

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nations with flames licking at the southern edge of the community, located about 750 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Winds are expected to be out of the southeast for the next several days, pushing the fire away from homes and other buildings.

“The fire is actually burning on the southwest side of High Level headed northwest,” Bruce Mayer, assistant deputy minister of Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry Department, said Tuesday.

“The forecast for the next few days is the strong gusty winds will be from the southeast to east and northeast, which are all favourable.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the fire is about five kilometres from the town. Official reports said flames were within three kilometres.

Kenney said no buildings have been damaged and the evacuation of the town on Monday went off without incident.

“I’m pleased to say it was a safe, orderly evacuation thanks to the co-operation of residents and first responders.”

Evacuee reception centres have been set up in Slave Lake and High Prairie.

Officials in Slave Lake said about 700 people had registered at its reception centre as of mid-morning Tuesday.

“Steady flow of evacuees all night,” said Mayor Tyler Warman. “People are very calm, very patient.”

Warman said hotel rooms have been booked for those who need them.

“We were down to the wire, but we were able to house them all,” said Warman. “We do have cots potentially available here in the future if needed, if we needed to set something up on a wider scale.”

Warman, who was a town councillor and firefighter during a 2011 wildfire that destroyed parts of Slave Lake, said he’s happy that the community is able to help its neighbours.

“We’re excited to pay it forward.”

Officials were also arranging for pets to be housed in Slave Lake during the evacuation.

Other evacuees were asked to register with the Red Cross. They were told to prepare for three days away from their homes and Kenney said they could be out for as many as five days.

About 20 patients were also moved from the High Level hospital over the long weekend.

READ MORE: B.C. sends 267 firefighters to help battle Alberta wildfires

The fire is rated at a Level 6, the most intense rating on the scale. That means flames are jumping from treetop to treetop.

The last estimate at noon Tuesday put the blaze at about 800 square kilometres, almost the same size as Calgary. Power had been cut to the town and wasn’t expected to be restored until Tuesday evening.

Almost 90 firefighters were working on the edge of the fire closest to High Level. Heavy-duty sprinkler systems were brought in to keep buildings wet.

Kenney said more firefighters from Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia were expected to be on the ground in Alberta in the next two days as part of national agreements to share firefighting resources.

“We will certainly be proud to return the favour when needed in the future.”

The premier urged residents to be cautious as the fire danger in many parts of the province is considered extreme.

“Unfortunately the dry conditions in northern Alberta are expected to continue for the foreseeable future with the fire danger possibly increasing this week,” he said.

Four other fires are classified as out of control in northern Alberta, including two burning north of Slave Lake.

The province issued a fire ban and restricted off-highway vehicle use for several areas late last week due to forecasts calling for little precipitation and strong winds.

It isn’t the first time wildfires have forced an evacuation of an Alberta community this early in the season.

In May 2016, a massive fire swept into Fort McMurray, destroying thousands of homes and businesses and forcing almost 88,000 people to flee. About 7,000 were evacuated from Slave Lake due to a wildfire in May 2011.

READ MORE: Should B.C. already be implementing province-wide fire bans?

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Seventy-four international students are expected to come to Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district for the last half of the 2020021 school year, says the district. (School District 68 image)
Nanaimo school district educating 160 international students during pandemic school year

Fifty-seven students from abroad arrived Jan. 14-18, says SD68

Rendering of two residential buildings proposed for the corner of Haliburton and Milton streets. (Matthew T. Hansen Architect image)
Two five-storey residential buildings approved for Haliburton Street

City council issues development permit for 79-unit complex at Haliburton and Milton

Ty Wesley, Nicole Darlington and Cameron Macaulay (from left) performed in the Beholder Entertainment production <em>Gender Sucks!</em> in the 2020 Nanaimo Fringe Festival. (Video still courtesy Sam Wharram)
Nanaimo Fringe Festival artist lottery open to local and B.C. playwrights

Organizers hope to stage plays in-person at indoor and outdoor venues this summer

Nanaimo RCMP investigated after a threat was made at Woodgrove Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19. (News Bulletin file photo)
Threat directed at Woodgrove Centre, Nanaimo RCMP investigating

Officers have searched areas of the mall accessible to shoppers and have deemed it safe

(News Bulletin file photo)
Car crashes along the Nanaimo Parkway, driver abandons vehicle

Mazda with ‘extensive damage’ found in the ditch in the early-morning hours Jan. 19

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Inmates at Metchosin’s William Head Institution are being given COVID-19 vaccines as part of the first phase. Around 600 inmates will be vaccinated in the coming days. (Black Press Media file photo)
William Head prison inmates in receive first doses of COVID vaccine

Priority set for older inmates and those with underlying medical conditions

Vancouver Island University. (File photo)
Province announces funding for VIU to train mental health workers

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A mattress on fire gutted the second floor hallway at Town Park Apartments C-block Jan. 17. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue images)
‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months

A burning mattress created smoke and heat, causing several tenants to jump from windows

A Courtenay resident labours to remove the snow build-up from around her car in February 2019. The area may see snow throughout the coming weekend. Black Press file photo
Snow, winter might not be done with Vancouver Island quite yet

Flurries, snow and cold temps predicted for the weekend for mid-Island

The City of Nanaimo’s Community Services Building at 285 Prideaux St., where the 7-10 Club is located, will host a warming centre seven days a week through March 31. (City of Nanaimo photo)
Warming centres for people experiencing homelessness open today in Nanaimo

City of Nanaimo and social agencies partnering on Wallace and Prideaux locations

Egg producers in B.C. aren’t obligated to reveal their production sites. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Officials say there’s not enough Vancouver Island eggs to meet demand

BC Egg Marketing Board doesn’t regulate labelling, supply needed from off-Island

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Most Read