The La Crete ferry crosses the Peace River on May 25. Southwest movement of the Chuckegg Creek wildfire prompted the evacuation Wednesday of the La Crete Ferry Campground.
While the Town of High Level tentatively prepares for residents to return home, communities to the south and north of the town are under an immediate evacuation notice due to out-of-control wildfires nearby.The Town of High Level has begun to re-establish essential services as they prepare to bring evacuees home while Alberta Wildfire issued a red flag warning Tuesday due to extremely dry conditions and high temperatures.Mayor Crystal McAteer said businesses deemed to be essential services have been contacted and work has been done to re-stock grocery stores, test water supplies and re-staff medical services.“We’re looking forward to the children playing in the streets, the people working and the lawns being mowed and I can’t wait to see you possibly this weekend,” said McAteer in a Facebook video to residents.The province also declared a disaster and public emergency under Section 7 of the Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act.La Crete Ferry Campground evacuationThe Chuckegg Creek fire which has been threatening High Level grew to 150,000 hectares — more than twice the size of Edmonton. The fire continued to move southeast Wednesday, prompting the mandatory evacuation of La Crete Ferry Campground.Extreme fire behaviour caused by the hot and gusty conditions pushed the fire across Highway 35 and two kilometres east of the road.“We’ve seen pretty active wildfire activity on that southern edge for some time now and with the winds the way they are today, it is pushing it a little bit further east once again,” Alberta Wildlife information officer Derek Gagnon said Wednesday.All evacuees are required to head to La Crete and register at the Mackenzie County office. Access to the La Crete Ferry has also been closed. Manned barricades are in place to prevent unauthorized entry into the campground.Meanwhile, the county issued an evacuation alert for the surrounding community of Tomkins Landing two kilometres east of the campground and north and south of Highway 697 to Range Road 164.Residents are advised to prepare to evacuate on short notice by fuelling vehicles, gathering necessary documents and preparing food and water.The fire also pushed south 10 kilometres toward the Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement Tuesday, which has previously been evacuated. Resources have been mobilized in the area.A red flag warning was issued Tuesday due to the extreme weather conditions that were expected Wednesday.“The Red Flag Watch is intended to provide situational awareness messaging for wildfire personnel and the public that a hazardous fire environment is developing and reinforce the need for heightened vigilance.”Steen River evacuationA separate fire about 150 kilometres north of High Level grew more than 17,000 hectares since Tuesday afternoon and continues to grow from hot and dry conditions, Gagnon said.The out-of-control fire just north of Steen River forced the mandatory evacuation of the community Tuesday, which Gagnon said consists mostly of Alberta Wildfire crews.“Steen River’s biggest population during the summer is from one of our fire bases, so it’s mostly Alberta Wildfire employees and staff … it’s one of our bases that was evacuated,” said Gagnon, noting those crews were the first to respond to the blaze, initially recorded at 400 hectares Tuesday afternoon.Access to the Northwest Territories remains closed on Hwy. 35. Traffic heading southbound is currently being held in Enterprise, N.W.T.County of Northern Lights evacuationLocated south of High Level and approximately 589 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, the county issued an alert Wednesday afternoon for residents to immediately evacuate due to the Battle River Complex Wildfire. The alert said the fire is out of control and encroaching on residents.Those residing northward from Township Road 922, southward from the Twin Lakes Campground, westward from the Notikewin River must evacuate.Residents must report to the Reception Centre located at the County of Northern Lights Main Office Building, at 600, 7th Ave. NW, in Manning.A second alert sent out just before 5:20 p.m. expanded the evacuation to Keg River, Carcajou, and those residing in the northern border of the County of Northern Lights south to Township Rd. 922 and should use Hwy 35 south to evacuate.Alberta Parks has also closed public access to Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Area and Notikewin Provincial Park.Wabasca and Bigstone Cree Nation evacuationA mandatory evacuation alert was issued at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday for the Hamlet of Wabasca and Bigstone Cree Nation due to a wildfire in the area.Residents in the area are directed to travel south on Highway 813 to Calling Lake and register at the Calling Lake Recreation Centre, located at 2870 Central Drive.Highway 754 from Highway 88 to Wabasca is closed due to smoke.— With files from Dylan Shortajunker@email@example.com