HIGH LEVEL, Alta. – Residents of a northern Alberta town are being told to be ready to evacuate at any time as an out-of-control wildfire, fanned by strong winds and dry conditions, continues to grow.
The Town of High Level announced Monday that residents should fill their gas tanks, gather important documents and prepare food and water in case an evacuation order is issued. The town also says fire crews will be setting up sprinklers in various places.
The province’s wildfire information centre says the Chuckegg Creek fire has grown to approximately 69,000 hectares in size and is now just five kilometres south of High Level.
On Sunday, the blaze was about 25 kilometres away and officials estimated it at about 25,000 hectares.
It says that the town, which has over 3,000 residents, isn’t in immediate danger but that residents should be vigilant as the situation could change rapidly.
“We are currently under a dry airmass that is not moving. The airmass brings higher temperatures and very low relative humidity, combined with strong gusty winds that is creating a challenging environment for firefighters,” a news release from the province said Monday about the High Level forest area.
“This weather is expected to extend through the rest of the week. There is no rain in the forecast.”
The town’s website also said that the electricity was out in the community, First Nations in the area and Mackenzie County.
On Monday afternoon, Mackenzie County issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents south and southeast of High Level, and south of the Bushe River Reserve due to the wildfire threat.
Further south, Alberta Emergency Alert said that Highway 16, a major thoroughfare between Edmonton and Prince George B.C., reopened as of 12 a.m. Monday after traffic was closed in both directions due to a fire that crossed the roadway west of Edson, Alta., on Sunday.
People who were ordered to leave their rural homes in the area were allowed to return to gather supplies, medications, and other important belongings on Monday, but were told they may need to leave again if the fire situation changes.
They were also advised that if livestock and pets have been evacuated they should not be returned to the initial evacuation zones.