Highway 16 reopens, residents return home as wildfire burns west of Edson

Residents return home after wildfire evacuation west of Edson
WATCH ABOVE: A number of people west of Edson are back in their homes after a wildfire forced them out Sunday night. Traffic is also moving again, after the officials had to close a major highway. As Albert Delitala tells us, residents aren't in the clear yet.

Highway 16 west of Edson, Alta. reopened early Monday morning and residents who were forced from their homes Sunday were allowed to return as a wildfire continued to burn west of the town.

The wildfire is located about 22 kilometres west of Edson, south of Marlboro, Alta. and Highway 16.

Yellowhead County fire chief Albert Bahri said the fire remained out of control Monday, with crews focused on dousing hot spots and keeping the fire from flaring up again with the afternoon heat.

“There’s no major flame that you can see,” he said late Monday morning. “We’re feeling much better about the situation right now as opposed to yesterday.”

On Tuesday, Alberta Wildfire deemed the Marlboro Fire as “being held.” Residents were no longer on evacuation alert and livestock and pets could return to the area.

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READ MORE: High Level, surrounding areas evacuated as wildfire burns in northwestern Alberta

A helicopter was being used just south of Highway 16, west of Marlboro to help douse the blaze from the air. Machinery was also being used to build a guard around the fire, Bahri said.

About 65 hectares of the Marlboro area had burned but no buildings or structures were lost, Bahri said. About 60 to 70 people were on the ground Monday fighting the fire.

Residents were asked to remain on evacuation alert notice Monday night, should the wildfire threat change. People should be ready to leave with short notice, Yellowhead County officials said in an update shortly before 6 p.m.

READ MORE: Alberta fire season 2019: Latest status of wildfires, bans and restrictions

Fire officials said they were called to the area shortly before 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

“It was a fast-moving fire when we arrived and agriculture and forestry will be doing that investigation to determine where it started and what actually started it,” Bahri said late Sunday night.

READ MORE: Wildfire near Edson forces evacuations; Highway 16 to reopen at midnight

At around 6:30 p.m., police said the wildfire jumped Highway 16 and was burning on both sides of the road. Heavy smoke led to the closure of Highway 16 between Obed and Highway 47.

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Rural residences on the north and south side of Highway 16 near Marlboro were evacuated Sunday, along with a nearby recreational area.

Elsenor Budal, who has lived in the area for about seven years, was forced from her home with her family. She said she was worried her home would be lost.

“It was very scary while I was driving,” she said. “I kept on crying and I could not sleep. I said to my husband: ‘I want to see my house, even if it’s burning. I want to see. I need to go back there.'”

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The family returned home Monday but said they will remain on alert, should they be told to leave again.

“Thank you, lord. My home is safe. I am very happy,” Budal said.

“Right now, we are going back to town because my son is working this afternoon but I will bring my mom and my son with me because just in case. I’ll take a little bit of stuff for us.”

Watch below: About 60 to 70 people remained on the ground to battle a wildfire west of Edson, Alta. Monday. The wildfire forced people in Marlboro out of their homes Sunday, but they were allowed to return home Monday morning.

Marlboro, Alta. residents return home as wildfire burns west of Edson
Marlboro, Alta. residents return home as wildfire burns west of Edson

About 10 people checked into Edson hotels, while others stayed with family and friends, according to RCMP.

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“The impact of this on a long weekend, when you shut down Highway 16, you’re shutting down an artery that leads from Alberta to B.C.,” Bahri said.

“We have no choice, when the fire crossed the highway there was no visibility and spot fires created in the centre median … it impacts a lot of people.

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“Not only did we shut down the highway, we shut down the CN Rail line. So there were no trains moving east or west through this area for approximately five to six hours.”

Yellowhead County officials said the evacuation order was lifted at 9 a.m.

Checkpoints will remain in place as only residents are allowed in the affected areas, Yellowhead County said. Livestock that have been removed from the area should not be returned to the evacuation zones.

Marlboro, Alta. located west of Edmonton. Residents were allowed to return home Monday, May 20, 2019 after being evacuated a day earlier due to a nearby wildfire.
Marlboro, Alta. located west of Edmonton. Residents were allowed to return home Monday, May 20, 2019 after being evacuated a day earlier due to a nearby wildfire. Eric Beck, Global News

Edson is located about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton.

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As of 2 p.m. Monday, the province said six wildfires were burning out of control in Alberta. Agreements are in place with other provinces and countries to bring in more resources to help battle the wildfires, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen said in a media release Monday.

“This time of year, the risk of wildfires is very high with dry windy conditions. This is why it’s so important for Albertans to exercise extreme caution while in our forested areas,” Dreeshen said.

Since March 1, Alberta Wildfire officials said there have been 409 wildfires in Alberta, about 70 per cent of which were human caused. The cause of this wildfire is still under investigation.

Keep up to date on Alberta highway closures through 511 Alberta. For updated information on evacuations and wildfire threat, stay tuned to Alberta Emergency Alert.