Wind gusts feed forest fire to massive size, residents of hamlet flee

A tiny, remote community in a tinder-dry region of northwestern Alberta has been evacuated because of an encroaching forest fire that has already burned about 1,000 square kilometres of timber and bush.

ZAMA CITY — A tiny, remote community in a tinder-dry region of northwestern Alberta has been evacuated because of an encroaching forest fire that has already burned about 1,000 square kilometres of timber and bush.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued shortly after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday for the hamlet of Zama City, about 930 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Alberta wildfire officials say hot temperatures and gusty winds fuelled the fast moving flames.

John Klassen, director of operations for Mackenzie County, says the order came after the wind shifted and started pushing the blaze toward the hamlet about 10 kilometres away.

Klassen says it took about six hours for between 150 and 200 permanent residents and transient workers to be moved safely to High Level, Alta., about 140 kilometres to the southeast.

There were no reports or any injuries or health-related troubles.

“Our municipal people were the last ones to pull out of there. And then the road was closed, that’s Highway 35, so no one in and out … other than emergency firefighters,” Klassen said Wednesday.

Highway 35 was open Wednesday, but the province has warned it may close again on short notice depending on smoke and fire conditions.

Residents of the Dene Tha’ First Nation were under a voluntary evacuation order.

The evacuees were asked to register at the town hall and were being put up in motels in High Level. About 300 people have registered, including 134 from the hamlet and 164 from the First Nation.

Klassen said emergency firefighting crews were standing by in Zama City in case the fire reached the community.

The conditions did not bode well.

“We haven’t had rain for quite some time and the temperatures are in the 30s and with some wind,” Klassen said. “It is extremely dry and it’s an extreme fire hazard.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Who is at highest risk of exposure to COVID-19? Firefighters, drivers, pharmacists, cooks

Central Alberta firefighter says virus taking toll on mental health

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Federal share is approaching $750 million annually, up from $618 million in 2012-13

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

N.S. fire crews continue battling ‘out-of-control’ Porters Lake blaze

Word of the fire first emerged early Saturday afternoon

Technology, representation butt heads amid debate over resuming Parliament

The Liberals are now proposing four meetings a week until June 17

Procession for Snowbirds crash victim makes its way through Halifax

The 35-year-old military public affairs officer and Halifax native died in the crash

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada as of May 23

There are 83,621 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada

Procession for Snowbirds crash victim to make its way through Halifax today

The military public affairs officer died in the Snowbirds Tutor jet crash in B.C. last Sunday

Employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

Only eight per cent of employers were fully prepared to restart operations, survey finds

Liberals table proposal for expanded Commons COVID-19 meetings, summer sittings

OTTAWA — The Liberals have tabled a proposal that would see expanded… Continue reading

Most Read