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High Level wildfire evacuee describes ‘post-apocalyptic’ skies

This photo of wildfire smoke in High Level, Alta., was taken on May 18, 2019. Courtesy: Stephanie Caissie

Stephanie Cassie had to leave her High Level home after the wildfire evacuation order came down nearly two weeks ago.

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

Since then, she and her two daughters have have relocated three times: staying with a friend 25 kilometres east of High Level, moving onto La Crete and then heading to Edmonton.

“With me having my two children, I didn’t want to take any chances and I have a lot of family down here in Edmonton,” Cassie said. “I’m not rushing to get back home tomorrow even though I know there is a re-entry open at 10 a.m.”

READ MORE: High Level wildfire evacuees ‘very thankful’ to be returning home

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Even though High Level’s evacuation order will be over on Monday morning, the town will still be under an evacuation alert.

“Because this fire is so big and so out of control, there’s no way that they can handle it right away,” Cassie said. “So the possibility of another evacuation order is high.”

She plans to wait around for a few days before venturing home.

“Safety over everything, right?”

This photo of wildfire smoke in High Level, Alta., was taken on May 19, 2019. Courtesy: Stephanie Caissie

Cassie was prepared and started loading her truck with supplies early on.

“Even before the order came, I just had this gut feeling and I just started packing,” she said.

“A few days before the evacuation even, the skies were crazy… It literally looks like a post-apocalyptic movie world scenario. It was really intense. Walking out of the grocery store and the sky just looked insane.”

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This photo of wildfire smoke in High Level, Alta., was taken on May 19, 2019. Courtesy: Stephanie Caissie

When the evacuation order was declared, Cassie said she held it together for the sake of her kids.

“Trying to keep myself very calm for them so I’m not giving them more stress — that was hard, but I did it,” she said.

Cassie said the support from first responders and others has made a big difference.

“It’s incredible to see everybody come together in this hectic of a situation,” she said.

“It’s been a long two weeks,” Cassie added. “I’ve been saying, straight up, this is the longest May long weekend of my life.”