The Chuckegg Creek fire is seen from the air in a Government of Alberta handout photo taken near the town of High Level, Alta., on Sunday, May 19, 2019.
Thousands of people who made up the latest wave of wildfire evacuees were allowed to return to their northwest Alberta homes Monday after a nearly week-long evacuation order triggered by the massive Chuckegg Creek wildfire.The mandatory evacuation officially ended at 2 p.m. Monday, allowing the 8,104 residents of La Crete and the surrounding area of Mackenzie County to return. The county will remain under an evacuation alert, which means residents need to be prepared to leave on short notice.Wildfires burning in the county, including the Chuckegg Creek fire, no longer pose an immediate threat to residents, according to a news release from Mackenzie County officials, but warned that could change “if certain weather conditions are met.”The evacuation order for La Crete was first issued shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday, June 17.Larry Neufield, manager of the La Crete and Area Chamber of Commerce, has been working out of Leduc since the evacuation. He said he’s excited to go home but is now waiting to hear if La Crete evacuees will be eligible for a one-time emergency payment that residents of other communities received earlier this month. Residents of places like High Level and Wabasca who faced longer mandatory evacuations were eligible for $1,250 per adult and $500 per child from the government.“I have mixed feelings but I’m happy for the community, happy for the businesses, happy for all the displaced people,” said Neufield. “I’m ecstatic for the businesses, they were anxious to get back. We’re relieved that nothing happened to the buildings, to the community.”Provincial officials were not immediately available Monday to comment on the status of emergency funding to individuals evacuated last week.There were some residents in the area, located about 675 kilometres north of Edmonton, who refused to leave. Jake Fehr, CEO of CanWest Air, was one of those who decided to stay behind. As a pilot in the community, he took aerial photos of the fire every day and posted them to social media.“People were scared out of their homes in the middle of the night,” said Fehr. “I fly, so I went and took pictures every day, sometimes twice a day, to let people know they didn’t have to worry.”Fehr said he received thousands of messages thanking him for the photos.Even though he didn’t obey the order, Fehr said putting it in place was the right decision.County officials said 7,100 county residents registered at evacuation centres.The Chuckegg Creek fire has been among the most tenacious blazes to menace the province this wildfire season. As of Monday morning, it was listed by wildfire information officers at 331,760 hectares.“There are over 1,000 firefighters and personnel working on this wildfire, and in the next few days over 370 firefighters will be arriving from different provinces and countries to relieve some of the current firefighters and will continue with suppression efforts,” a statement from the province updating the High Level forest area wildfires said. There are Albertans who are still evacuated due to wildfires. The Dene Tha’ First Nation’s Bushe River, and Beaver First Nation’s Child Lake and Boyer River reserves remain out of their homes, said an Alberta emergency email@example.com