Hundreds of northern Alberta wildfire evacuees register at reception centres
For the latest coverage on Wednesday, May 22, please visit this story.
Wildfire evacuees from northwestern Alberta continue to file in to reception centres set up throughout the province as an out-of-control wildfire continues to burn about five kilometres south of High Level.
An evacuation order was issued for High Level on Monday afternoon because of a wildfire that, by Tuesday afternoon, had grown to be about 80,000 hectares. Parts of Mackenzie County south of High Level, along with Bushe River and Meader River were also ordered to evacuate on Monday afternoon.
Reception centres have been set up in several Alberta communities, including Slave Lake, High Prairie, Grande Prairie, Peace River and La Crete. (See specific locations below).
Slave Lake takes in nearly 700 evacuees
Nearly 700 people had registered at a reception centre in Slave Lake, Alta., on Tuesday after being forced from their homes in the High Level area.View link »
Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman said Tuesday afternoon about 669 people had registered at Legacy Centre, and the bulk of the evacuees arrived between 9 p.m. Monday and 4 a.m. Tuesday.
“Some are passing on and going on to other communities,” he said, adding the majority of evacuees stayed in hotels Monday night while others stayed at a local campground.
Warman said about a half a dozen cats and dogs came with the evacuees, the majority of which were able to stay in hotels with their owners.
Watch below: Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman said nearly 700 wildfire evacuees have registered with the local reception centre after being forced from their homes on Monday afternoon. He encourages people to continue to register.
Warman said they were running into a bit of trouble accommodating everyone, as the community only has 200 hotel rooms available. He said the town is working with the High Prairie reception centre to ensure everyone has a place to stay.
Warman said the situation is fluid and constantly changing, but added they are working with the Red Cross to bring in cots for people, should they have to use them.
“Our ideal scenario would be to put people in hotel lodging because it’s a better environment for them,” he said.
“We do continue to encourage people to register. Knowing where people are and what their needs are helps us to plan ahead for what they need.”
Watch below: A video provided by High Level resident Danny Green shows the massive extent of the wildfires burning in northern Alberta. This video was taken as the High Level area was evacuated on Monday, May 20, 2019.
Rose Chalifoux said she found out about the evacuation order while camping about four hours north of High Level over the long weekend. She said she raced home just in time for a police officer to tell her she had 10 minutes before she had to leave town.
“I went home and I just grabbed what I could,” she said from Slave Lake on Tuesday.
From High Level, she drove another five hours south to Slave Lake. Chalifoux said the evacuation went OK, but added the adrenaline is now gone.
“I think the shock is working in now because I’m pretty shaky right now. I was OK yesterday. I don’t know if it’s from looking at the pictures on TV.”
Ryan Gaillard, the manager of the local Sobey’s, got a call from the mayor at 2 a.m. Tuesday saying the Slave Lake reception centre was out of snacks. The pair and a couple of staff members loaded up a few carts of food and got it out to the evacuees.
“We came in to meet him and get him re-supplied,” Gaillard said. “Whatever you can do to help those people, you got to do.”
Warman said food vouchers were given to evacuees on Tuesday. He said the support from the community and surrounding areas has been overwhelming, adding they learned a lot when their community was devastated by a wildfire in 2011.
“Obviously we gained a ton of experience from 2011 in regards with how to manage emergencies and how to communicate with people,” he said.
“We’re thankful that we’re able to put all that training… to good use to help somebody else.”
La Crete, Fort Vermilion take in 350 evacuees
As of Tuesday evening, about 200 people had registered at the reception centre in La Crete, with another 150 people expected in Fort Vermilion.
“Last night it took a little bit because we weren’t expecting quite as many as we were getting right away and it just takes a little bit to set up,” Mackenzie County Reeve Josh Knelsen said.
“These things aren’t planned events so it takes a little bit to get everything in order, but we did fine and everybody had a warm place to stay for the night and we had warm food. So as far as the situation goes, it’s going as good as can be expected.
“That’s just what we do. When times get tough you pull together. You don’t sit on the stump and think about it.”
Knelsen said they are equipped to take in more people and will continue to do so until the wildfire threat subsides.
“Everybody is safe right now so things are looking up. Hopefully we can keep the town from burning down and the infrastructure around it and then we’ll all be happy,” he said.
The majority of the evacuees in La Crete are from the Bushe River and Meander River areas.
Doris Martel left her Meader River home on Monday and said she was ready to go.
“Some of us that have been through this before have been prepared, packed and ready to go,” she said.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, there were 27 wildfires burning in Alberta, five of which were listed as out of control.
BELOW: An interactive map of the wildfires currently burning in Alberta
As of Tuesday afternoon, High Level and surrounding communities remained on an evacuation order. The approximately 4,000 evacuees from High Level are encouraged to register with either the Slave Lake or High Prairie reception centre.
Slave Lake Legacy Centre
400 6 Ave. NE
Slave Lake, AB
High Prairie Sports Palace
5409 – 49 St.
High Prairie, AB
Another 750 people from surrounding communities, including the Bushe River Reserve, were told to register at the La Crete Heritage Centre located at 15411 – TWP RD 1060 south of La Crete or by phoning 780-928-4447.
Reception centres have also been set up at the Grande Prairie Regional College at 10726 – 106 Ave., and at Peace River Misery Mountain Ski Hill 10408 – 89 St.
Watch below: Officials updated the High Level wildfire’s status on Tuesday morning
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