Chuckegg Creek wildfire is burning out of control in the High Level Forest Area, to the southwest and west of the town of High Level on Sunday, May 19 2019

Mayor says northern Alberta town still under threat from nearby wildfire

The blaze has now eaten its way through about 920 square kilometres of forest

The mayor of a northwestern Alberta town says the threat from a powerful wildfire burning three kilometres away has not passed and warns evacuees they could be out longer than expected.

High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer told a news conference Wednesday that firefighting is going well, but everyone is at the mercy of the weather.

“I want to stress the importance to everyone, especially evacuees, that the danger has not passed nor has it diminished,” McAteer said. “We know based on recent experiences of Slave Lake and of Fort McMurray that wildfires are highly unpredictable and can change at any moment.

“I am pleading with everyone to be patient and that the evacuation of High Level will continue into the foreseeable future.”

READ MORE: Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Nearly 5,000 people cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nations on the long weekend with flames from the out-of-control Chuckegg Creek fire licking at the southern edge of the community, located 750 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Evacuee Stefanie Brown said she’s more concerned for the safety of those fighting the blaze than she is about the townhouse she left behind.

“If it burns down our stuff, we’ll buy more,” Brown said Wednesday after a 1,300-kilometre drive south to Medicine Hat, Alta., where her mother lives.

The school teacher’s car was gassed up, her devices charged and her bags packed by the time her phone blared Monday with an emergency alert that High Level was being evacuated.

She knew from experience how important it was to be prepared.

Brown had to flee Medicine Hat during massive floods in 2013 and forgot to pack key documents and mementoes from her late father. Luckily, her second-floor condo stayed dry.

“The first time I didn’t listen when they told us to get prepared, and then, when it was time to go, I didn’t even know what to put in my car,” she recalled.

This time, Brown, her two children and two dogs piled into her hatchback to make it to safety.

Authorities handled the evacuation well, she added. “They did it with enough advance notice and time that people didn’t panic.”

Officials said Wednesday they are continuing to prepare the town for any potential shift in winds.

“The High Level area has been experiencing drought-like conditions for quite some time,” said Scott Elliot with Alberta Wildfire. “The fire has been exhibiting extreme behaviour for multiple days and has made control efforts extremely difficult.”

The good news, Elliot said, is the spread has been away from the community due to the winds.

“This has given us an opportunity to put some preparation and control measures in place in order to manage the threat to the town,” he said.

Officials said they’ve been able to protect power poles to the west and the south and also created a fireguard between the fire and the town.

READ MORE: B.C. firefighters being deployed to Northern Alberta

Winds were expected to shift slightly in the coming days and push smoke from the fires south rather than north.

“The forecast, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be giving us a break,” said Elliot. “We are not really getting a big blast of rain that we are going to need.”

If they get a west wind on the fire, he said, it will put the town and other nearby communities at increased risk.

The blaze has now eaten its way through about 920 square kilometres of forest, which is an area bigger than the size of Calgary.

Some 110 firefighters were working to protect structures in High Level and properties in Mackenzie County. Alberta Wildfire had 76 firefighters and 24 helicopters battling the blaze.

Some firefighters from British Columbia were expected later on Wednesday. Others are to arrive later from Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

READ MORE: Is vegan food a human right? Firefighter who fought Williams Lake wildfire says so

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton and Lauren Krugel in Calgary

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Harrison Festival to host viewing of local ‘Still Standing’ episode

Comedian Jonny Harris came to Harrison Hot Springs in January to film part of his TV series

Blowback from the Trudeau in brownface debacle reaches Chilliwack

PM in questionable photos released in the middle of the federal election campaign had ripple effects

‘I just can’t believe it’: Agassiz swimmer brings home six medals from seniors games

Patti Komar won three gold and three silver medals in her first competition in 48 years

Local Liberal MP Jati Sidhu says he forgives Trudeau for brownface photos

Sidhu says Trudeau ‘didn’t know any better’ and that photos will prompt discussion

Prospera and Westminster credit unions approved for proposed merger

Abbotsford- and Surrey-based companies now take matter to membership vote

VIDEO: Agassiz Fall Fair celebrates 115 years of fair fun

From 4H shows to pie eating contests, the annual fair brought its best to the community this year

Walmart to quit selling e-cigarettes amid vaping backlash

U.S.’s largest retailer points to ‘growing’ complications in federal, state and local regulations

Former B.C. lifeguard gets house arrest for possession of child porn

Cees Vanderniet of Grand Forks will serve six months of house arrest, then two years’ probation

Student arrested at South Delta Secondary for alleged assault

The alleged assault occurred between two SDSS students on Wednesday, Sept. 18

Crown alleges resentment of ex-wife drove Oak Bay father to kill his daughters

Patrick Weir alleged in his closing arguments that Andrew Berry is responsible for the deaths of his daughters

‘I’d do it again,’ says B.C. man who swam naked, drunk in Toronto shark tank

David Weaver, of Nelson, was drunk when he went to Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto on Oct. 12 2018

How to react to Trudeau’s racist photos? With humility, B.C. prof says

‘We are now treating racism as a crime that you cannot recover from’

Victoria man spots online photo of his totem pole 11 years after it was stolen

Mark Trueman restored the pole himself before it was stolen off of his property in Duncan

VIDEO: Fire destroys Williams Lake strip club targeted by past arson attempts

Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge destroyed by fire, as well as New World Tea and Coffee House

Most Read