Northern Alberta MD of Opportunity communities ordered to evacuate overnight due to wildfires

Click to play video: 'Wildfire evacuees begin arriving in Calling Lake'
Wildfire evacuees begin arriving in Calling Lake
WATCH ABOVE: Early Thursday morning, an emergency alert woke up people in Chipewyan Lake and many headed to a reception centre in Calling Lake. Kent Morrison has the latest – May 31, 2019

Thursday morning Chipewyan Lake evacuation

A wildfire entered a remote northern Alberta community in the MD of Opportunity overnight Thursday, and all residents were ordered to get out before the flames cut off access to the community.

An Alberta Emergency Alert issued at 3:40 a.m. said a new wildfire is rapidly approaching the Chipewyan Lake Village and may cut off access to the area.

The community is located in a remote area in the centre of northern Alberta, accessible via dirt roads and plane, about 250 kilometres north of Slave Lake.

Everyone in Chipewyan Lake Village was ordered to evacuate immediately and proceed south on the Alpac Rd. and head to Calling Lake using Highway 813.

Watch below: (From May 30, 2019) Residents of Chipewyan Lake woke up to an emergency alert on Thursday and told to leave their homes because of an approaching wildfire. Kent Morrison is in Calling Lake where evacuees were told to go. 

Click to play video: 'Some Alberta wildfire evacuees heading to Calling Lake'
Some Alberta wildfire evacuees heading to Calling Lake

A reception centre has been set up at the Calling Lake Rec and Cultural Centre and all evacuees are urged to go register there and receive further information. People are uged to be careful while driving due to heavy smoke.

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The county is under a local state of emergency.

Marcel Auger, the reeve of the Municipal District of Opportunity, said Thursday conditions are changing quickly in Wabasca, where the provincial command centre is located.

“We still have that brown haze, that strong haze… right over the community. You don’t have very much visibility,” he said.

Auger said the evacuation order covers roughly 4,000 people from Wabasca-Desmarais and the Bigstone Cree Nation.

“The fire had gained a lot of speed and covered a lot of ground and had hit past one of the trigger points by 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon, which is where we decided we needed to evacuated the community and get everyone to a safe distance away,” he said.

Auger said a fire near Wabasca and a fire north of Wabasca are two kilometres apart.

“It’s just a matter of time those two fires are going to be combined and make an even larger fire for our forces to have to contend with,” he said, adding fire is roughly five kilometres away from the nearest residence.

Wednesday night Wabasca evacuation

The overnight evacuation order came seven hours after a First Nation’s community about 110 kilometres to the south was also ordered to evacuate.

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A mandatory immediate evacuation order was declared at 8:44 p.m. Wednesday for the hamlet of Wabasca in the MD of Opportunity and the Bigstone Cree Nation – Wabasca #166.

According to the municipality, the area is home to 3,300 people.

Residents were told to go south on Highway 813 to Calling Lake, where they were also asked to register at the Calling Lake Rec Centre (located at  2870 Central Dr.)

Evacuees were advised to check 511 Alberta for road conditions.

Wildfires elsewhere

Just moments before those evacuation orders were issued, the Alberta Emergency Management Agency issued an evacuation alert further northwest for the town of Manning and some surrounding areas on behalf of the County of Northern Lights.

That community is located about 100 kilometres north of Peace River.

The alert was issued “due to extremely dry conditions and unstable wildfire activity,” officials said. Residents were asked to be ready to leave their homes on “short notice.”

Earlier in the day, an evacuation order was issued for areas in the County of Northern Lights.

READ MORE: Another wildfire in northern Alberta puts parts of County of Northern Lights on mandatory evacuation order

On Wednesday, evacuation orders were also issued for more areas of Mackenzie County Wednesday as an out-of-control wildfire continues to burn south of High Level.

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READ MORE: Wildfire leads to mandatory evacuation order near Mackenzie County campground

Earlier this month, a massive wildfire forced about 5,000 people to flee the High Level area.

As of Wednesday evening, the Chuckegg Creek wildfire had grown to more than 150,000 hectares in size and was being fought by about 390 wildland firefighters and staff with support from 28 helicopters as well as heavy equipment.

The provincial government has also made financial supports available for wildfire evacuees.

Earlier on Wednesday, provincial orders were approved to release more funds to cover the emergency costs resulting from the wildfire situation.

READ MORE: Northern Alberta wildfires prompt Kenney government to declare disaster, public emergency

According to Alberta Wildfire, there were 25 active wildfires across the province as of 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Of those, six had been sparked in the last 24 hours and seven were considered to be out of control.

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