The Chuckegg Creek wildfire burns in the High Level Forest Area, to the southwest and west of the town of High Level, Alta. in this photo posted on the Alberta Wildfire Twitter page on Saturday, May 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Twitter, @AlbertaWildfire

Wind remains on firefighters’ side in bout with northern Alberta wildfire

HIGH LEVEL, Alta. — A government update says a lighter wind out of the northeast is allowing firefighters to make progress in reining in a wildfire that’s forced thousands of people from their homes in northern Alberta.

Authorities say the Chuckegg Creek fire remains out of control and there’s still heavy smoke as it churns about three kilometres south of High Level, but favourable weather on Tuesday allowed crews to protect power poles west and south of the community.

“Due to current conditions and resources the fire has not reached the town of High Level,” said the update Wednesday morning. “The main area of spread remains away from town.”

The blaze has eaten its way through about 800 square kilometres of forest, almost the same size as the city of Calgary. An update on the size was expected later in the day.

Officials said crews using heavy equipment are making progress on a fire guard around High Level and parts of the fire perimeter. They are also taking preventative measures on homes, including the removal of debris from yards and patio furniture from decks.

Nearly 5,000 people were cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nations on the long weekend when flames were licking at the southern edge of the town, about 750 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

The fire has been rated at a Level 6 — the most intense rating on the scale — which means flames are jumping from treetop to treetop in the tinder dry region.

There are 110 firefighters working to protect structures in High Level and on other properties in Mackenzie County. Alberta Wildfire has 76 firefighters and 24 helicopters battling the blaze.

Power has temporarily been restored to the county, the town and other nearby communities, but officials warn that it could be intermittent.

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