Uncertain winds and safety concerns mean the re-entry plan into High Level, after residents were forced from their homes by wildfire nearly two weeks ago, will have to be re-evaluated.
“I know this is not the news that you were expecting and I sincerely apologize to everybody because I was positive we would be able to bring everybody home this weekend,” High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer said in a Facebook update on Saturday afternoon.
McAteer reassured residents that the town is safe, but added that the winds have “circled around” and there were concerns about people travelling in the area.
“There is a lot of moving parts in this that we have to put together,” she said.
The Chuckegg Creek Wildfire south of High Level, Alta., has forced thousands of people from their homes in High Level and other parts of Mackenzie County.
By Saturday morning, the wildfire had burned about 280,000 hectares. An update by Alberta Wildfire on Saturday at 11 a.m. stated the blaze demonstrated active fire behaviour on Friday, with winds pushing growth to the west and the south.
In an update on Facebook Saturday afternoon, wildfire information officer Scott Elliot said there are several areas of concern with the “large and dynamic wildfire,” which includes the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement.
“Municipal and wildland firefighters continue to work in the community and around the community to establish containment to protect people’s property,” Elliot said.
On Friday, an official with the Métis Settlements General Council said 15 homes and two community buildings in the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement were destroyed by the wildfire.
Elliot said another area of concern is between Highway 35 and the Peace River because the eastern flank of the fire has the potential to spread to the northeast and possibly threaten communities east of High Level.
Watch below: More than 10,000 people have been forced from their homes due to wildfires in northern Alberta. Kent Morrison has the latest from Slave Lake Saturday morning.
About 385 Alberta Wildfire firefighters, 130 structural firefighters and 26 helicopters are working on the blaze. The forecast called for some rain in the area on Saturday, but officials said thunderstorms and gusty winds were also expected.
Officials said no homes or businesses have been damaged in High Level, but added that the threat remains.
McAteer said the re-entry plan will be re-evaluated Sunday at noon.
As of Saturday at 10 a.m., there were 24 wildfires burning in Alberta, eight of which were out of control.