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High Level launches online exhibit to mark 1 year since wildfire evacuations

High Level has launched an exhibit to commemorate the 2019 wildfire evacuations in the community.
High Level has launched an exhibit to commemorate the 2019 wildfire evacuations in the community. Courtesy: Town of High Level

The town of High Level launched an online experience to mark the first anniversary of the Chuckegg Creek wildfire, which forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

“The town council requested that we put together a celebration for the Chuckegg Creek wildfire anniversary, so we have been planning something for quite some time,” Clark McAskile, the chief administrative officer for the Town of High Level, said Sunday.

“However, with COVID[-19] and limits on gatherings, it’s resulted in us creating a much more virtual experience.”

The exhibit, which features information, photos and actual equipment used in the firefight, was set up at the Mackenzie Crossroads Museum and Visitor Centre in High Level.

READ MORE: Alberta’s 2020 wildfire season underway after a challenging 2019

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It was initially meant to coincide with a town celebration but that was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

While the museum is still closed to visitors, the town opted to launch an online version so people can still experience it in the interim.

The online video tour features Mayor Crystal McAteer giving a 17-minute explanation of the exhibit and its contents.

“The way it’s been set up and the current arrangement has allowed us to share it with a much wider audience,” McAskile said.

McAskile also served as the town’s director of emergency measures during the wildfire evacuations. He said he believes the exhibit and marking the anniversary are important for those who were forced to flee their homes.

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“Evacuating people from their homes is a fairly traumatizing experience,” he said. “The purpose of the anniversary is to commemorate that event and recognize the numerous professionals and volunteers.

“They kept our community safe.”

Equipment that was actually used by volunteers and professionals to fight the 2019 Chuckegg Creek wildfire is now on display in High Level.
Equipment that was actually used by volunteers and professionals to fight the 2019 Chuckegg Creek wildfire is now on display in High Level. Courtesy: Town of High Level

The fire was declared under control in August 2019, two months after the evacuations. However, some hot spots remain active, and McAskile said the town has been told it could remain active through this summer.

Video shows extent of wildfire burning in northern Alberta
Video shows extent of wildfire burning in northern Alberta

READ MORE: 3 months after sparking, Chuckegg Creek wildfire in northern Alberta finally under control

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McAskile added the town is working on a reopening plan for the museum, with limited access amid the COVID-19 relaunch.

“People will be able to see it, right up and in person, but everybody gets to see it virtually,” he said.