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Thousands of Alberta residents forced out by wildfire allowed to return home

WATCH ABOVE: Thousands of people forced out by out-of-control wildfires near Bigstone Cree Nation and Wabasca-Demarais should get to return home Wednesday. Kendra Slugoski has details and more on air quality.

Residents of Bigstone Cree Nation and Wabasca-Demarais are now allowed to return home after being forced out due to wildfires.

Parts of the Municipal District of Opportunity were placed under mandatory evacuation orders at the end of May due to out-of-control wildfires.

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

Chipewyan Lake Village was ordered to evacuate overnight on May 30. The hamlet of Wabasca and the Bigstone Cree Nation were ordered to evacuate at 8:44 p.m. on May 29.

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

On Wednesday morning, the mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for Wabasca-Desmarais, the hamlets of Sandy Lake and Chipewyan Lake, and all of Bigstone Cree Nation.

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Carl Barnsford lives in Wabasca and said after 15 days, he’s excited to get back home to normal life.

“The first few days were good. After a while it kind of wears off and you want to get home,” he said. “You want to get home to your place, to your pets, doing the normal things you do at home. But the experience is quite extraordinary because of all the people you have to help out.

“Everybody’s all excited to go home today.”

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Barnsford drove one of the buses that brought evacuees to Edmonton. He said it’s been amazing to see everyone pitch in and support each other through the ordeal.

“Everybody was there, everybody was in there, went over and beyond to help everybody out with food, medication, accommodations. Thank you to Edmonton for all the motels and putting us up. It was nice that everybody came together.”

The province said residents in these areas should remain prepared to evacuate on short notice, should the wildfire situation change.

READ MORE: Evacuation alerts and orders in place across Alberta due to wildfire

Wabasca-Demarais is located approximately 100 kilometres northeast of Lesser Slave Lake, where wildfires continues to burn.

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As of June 10, there were fires burning five and three kilometres west of Wabasca, 26.5 kilometres northeast of Marten Beach, 33 kilometres northeast of Slave Lake, and 9.3 kilometres southeast of Trout Lake.

Watch below (June 1): All eyes were on the weather as wildfires continued to burn in northern Alberta on Saturday. Lightning was possible in the Slave Lake region. Kent Morrison has the latest on the wildfire situation in that region.

Alberta wildfires: All eyes on weather as lightning possible near Slave Lake
Alberta wildfires: All eyes on weather as lightning possible near Slave Lake

The McMillan Complex fire, which is burning out-of-control between Wabasca and Slave Lake, had burned 262,622 hectares as of June 10. As of Monday, it was declared 30 per cent contained.

“Last night 3-8 millimetres of rain was recorded to have fallen on the southwest and west side of the fire,” Alberta Sustainable Resource Development said in a Monday update.

“Extensive firefighting has and is being conducted on the east side of the fire, west of Bigstone Cree Nation and Wabasca.

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“Firefighters continue to lay hose lines along the fire guard built by heavy equipment. Heavy equipment continues to build fireguard on the south and northwest sides of the fire and create landing pads for helicopters on northeast and northwest sides of the fire,” SRD added.

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“Structure protection remains in place in Trout Lake, Wabasca, Bigstone Cree Nation and Marten Beach.”

READ MORE: Northern Alberta wildfire destroys at least 11 homes in Paddle Prairie, 80 at risk

Several other regions remained under mandatory evacuation order, including the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement

Watch below (May 31): A wildfire has already destroyed 15 homes on the Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement and threatens dozens more. Fletcher Kent has the latest.

Wildfire’s toll on Paddle Prairie community becoming clearer
Wildfire’s toll on Paddle Prairie community becoming clearer

Evacuees can check evacuation payment eligibility here.

The province has provided re-entry tips here.

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

Thousands of High Level residents were allowed to return home on June 2. They were forced out of their homes by the out-of-control Chuckegg Creek fire for about two weeks.

Watch below (June 4): High Level residents who have returned to the town following an evacuation order prompted by a wildfire are doing their best to getting back to their regular routines. Tom Vernon reports.

High Level residents starting to get back into their routines
High Level residents starting to get back into their routines

As of June 12, there were 17 wildfires burning in Alberta; seven of which were listed as out of control.

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So far this year, wildfires have burned a total of 679,127 hectares.

With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.

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