N.W.T. residents still cut off from Alberta as highway remains closed

A wildfire near Steen River, Alta., is still active and the highway between High Level, Alta., and Enterprise, N.W.T., remains closed.

Alberta wildfire information officer Derek Gagnon said the Steen River wildfire increased rapidly and raced across the highway Tuesday afternoon.

And it continues to grow.

“We are seeing wildfires grow at night, which is very unusual,” Gagnon said. “It means that the conditions out there are so extreme that we are not getting that overnight recovery, so we are seeing very extreme wildfire danger conditions in the area right now.”

Highway 1 is closed between Enterprise and the Alberta border. Highway 1 becomes Highway 35 in Alberta.

It is the only highway that directly links the N.W.T. with Alberta and is a vital route for residents and goods going to and from the North.

Steen River, a settlement located along the highway, is approximately 120 kilometres north of High Level, which is under an evacuation order due to the Chuckegg wildfire, and approximately 120 kilometres south of Enterprise.

Gagnon said the fire is not threatening any communities at the moment, though evacuation orders have been given to some residents who live near the highway. A fire base was also evacuated.

Along with the wildfire at Steen River, the Chuckegg fire just outside of High Level continues to burn. The last measurement of that fire was about 150,000 hectares.

“We are still working on containment efforts during the day when it is safe for our crews to do so,” Gagnon said. “But at night it is a significant challenge because it is so dangerous.”

Gagnon said it is hard to say when the highway will be reopened.

A barricade has been set up at Enterprise, N.W.T. Highway 1 is closed between Enterprise and the Alberta border due to a wildfire at Steen River, Alta. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

A couple of weather systems moving into the area will make for windier conditions.

“So we are not really sure how exactly the fires are going to react,” Gagnon said.

“If the fire is still very active near the highway, that highway will unfortunately have to remain closed,” he said. “We aren’t going to put anybody at risk by going through an active wildfire zone.

“Hopefully the fire moves away from the highway and we are able to reopen it soon but I can’t commit to any time frame for that.”

Enterprise public works foreman Alan Kimball said traffic has really slowed down because of the wildfires.

“Since the High Level fire, there hasn’t been much traffic at all, tourists or light vehicles or anything,” Kimball said.

He said there had been a lot of smoke in the area over the last few days, but the winds have changed direction and it is clear today.

The N.W.T. government said updates will be tweeted as they become available.

Five trucks are lined up at the side of the road near Enterprise, N.W.T. It is unclear when Highway 1 between the Northwest Territories hamlet and the Alberta border will reopen. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

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