Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

HIGH LEVEL — Fire officials say winds continue to be favourable as crews battle a large wildfire burning a few kilometres from a northern Alberta town.

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nations with flames licking at the southern edge of the community, located about 750 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Winds are expected to be out of the southeast for the next several days, pushing the fire away from homes and other buildings.

“The fire is actually burning on the southwest side of High Level headed northwest,” Bruce Mayer, assistant deputy minister of Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry Department, said Tuesday.

“The forecast for the next few days is the strong gusty winds will be from the southeast to east and northeast, which are all favourable.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the fire is about five kilometres from the town. Official reports said flames were within three kilometres.

Kenney said no buildings have been damaged and the evacuation of the town on Monday went off without incident.

“I’m pleased to say it was a safe, orderly evacuation thanks to the co-operation of residents and first responders.”

Evacuee reception centres have been set up in Slave Lake and High Prairie.

Officials in Slave Lake said about 700 people have so far registered at its reception centre.

“Steady flow of evacuees all night,” Mayor Tyler Warman said Tuesday morning. “People are very calm, very patient.”

Warman said hotel rooms had been booked Monday for those who needed them, but they were running out of rooms later Tuesday.

“We are working with our counterparts in High Prairie right now to see if they can take some overflow,” he said at an afternoon news conference.

Warman, who was a town councillor and firefighter during a 2011 wildfire that destroyed parts of Slave Lake, said he’s happy that the community is able to help its neighbours.

“We gained a ton of experience in 2011,” he said. “We’ve done a ton of extensive training on how to assist other communities.

“Thankfully we’re able to put all that training and all that energy and all those ideas and things we learned to good use.”

Officials were also arranging for pets to be housed in Slave Lake during the evacuation.

High Level wildfire

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