Reinforcements on their way to Alberta to help fight raging wildfire

Crews battling wildfires in northwestern Alberta are getting help today from hundreds of new firefighters making their way there from other provinces.

British Columbia is sending 267 wildfire service personnel, including 230 firefighters plus supervisors and an incident managers.

The first group arrives today. The remainder should be on site on Thursday, according to B.C. Wildfire Service statement.

With the unpredictable nature of wildfires, the statement said it’s important that provinces support each other when the need arises and notes the “invaluable assistance Alberta has provided to B.C. during the last two wildfire seasons, which were the worst in the province’s history.”

More help is expected to be arriving from Ontario and Nova Scotia, as well.

The Chuckegg Creek fire is seen from the air near the town of High Level, Alta., on Sunday, May 19, 2019. (Government of Alberta/The Canadian Press)

A massive, out-of-control Chuckegg Creek Wildfire, burning approximately five kilometres south of High Level, Alta., has grown to 80,000 hectares, and is still a menace for the community.

About 5,000 residents were ordered to evacuate the town on Monday afternoon.

About 800 people have registered with the government, advising them that they are safely out of the community in Slave Lake, about 500 kilometres away, La Crete and other communities.

Mayor concerned for seniors

However, the government is still urging all evacuees to check in one of the five registration centres in the province.

High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer is particularly concerned about residents of White Spruce Village, a housing development for independent seniors.

“I have some concerns about the residents of White Spruce Village,” McAteer wrote in a Facebook post late Tuesday. “So far, only two seniors have registered at the evacuation centres.”

A large wildfire has forced the evacuation of the town of High Level in the province’s north. (CBC News)

McAteer also noted that there are volunteers in High Level who will check on pets that were left behind. Residents can call the town at 780-926-2201 to request assistance, she said.

The centres are located at the Slave Lake Legacy Centre, the High Prairie Sports Palace, Grande Prairie Regional College, Peace River Misery Mountain Ski Hill and the La Crete Heritage Centre.

Evacuees still looking for a place to stay should head to High Prairie, Grande Prairie or Peace River. Slave Lake hotels are full.

Provincial fire officials on Tuesday were grateful for winds that have been pushing the fire away from the community, and they expected that to continue for the next few days.

Environment Canada said winds should be light this morning but with gusts reaching 40 km/h.

The wind will push smoke into the Peace River region, which will causing poor air quality and reduced visibility.

Grande Prairie, 450 kilometres south, is expected to experience the smoke by Thursday, Environment Canada said in an air quality statement.

On Tuesday, McAteer said evacuees should be prepared to be gone from their homes for up to five days, because power service is disrupted in High Level and La Crete.

Atco said more than 50 employees and contractors are working to restore service, but warned it could be intermittent over the next few days.

Late Tuesday, it managed to restore provisional electricity to High Level and expected to get La Crete and other nearby communities back online by midnight.

“Due to the unpredictable nature of the fire, power restoration may be intermittent over the coming hours and days. Large-scale backup generation is currently being secured and should be available by the end of the week to support priority operations as determined by the town and region,” the company said in a statement.

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