As town of High Level evacuates, NWT is one escape route

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Residents of Hay River are preparing to offer assistance after a wildfire triggered the evacuation of a nearby northern Alberta town.

High Level issued an evacuation order shortly after 4pm on Monday as a wildfire to the south and west of the town grew.

Town authorities recommended that residents evacuate via Highways 58 and 88, east then south of the community, as Highway 35 directly south of High Level is closed due to the fire.

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However, given the level of traffic leaving the town, the route north to the NWT may form a viable alternative for at least some of High Level's 3,000 inhabitants.

Residents of Hay River – a 300-km drive north – were already expecting to be called upon to host evacuees.

On Monday afternoon, the people of Hay River began organizing themselves online for a possible influx of families from the south.

Posting to the Facebook group Hay River Community Announcements, residents of the town shared details of rooms and accommodation they have available in an emergency.

One resident said they were already making arrangements to accommodate a relative from High Level.

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Chief April Martel of the neighbouring Kátł’odeeche First Nation said its recently reopened Dene Wellness Centre was standing by to receive evacuees as necessary.

If you need space at the wellness centre, call 867-875-0027 and ask for Catherine, said Martel.

Meanwhile, farther up the highway in Fort Providence, the Snowshoe Inn said it would offer rooms at half price ($90) and a free resting area.

With Hay River's highrise still off-limits following a fire in March, accommodation availability in Hay River itself is already stretched.

Arrangements continue to be sought for some highrise residents attempting to find permanent accommodation after that fire.

Meanwhile, the Mackenzie Frontier Tourist Association – based in High Level – warned NWT residents heading home through northern Alberta to plan ahead.

High Level lies on the route for residents heading to or from southern Alberta.

"Fuel services are reduced due to power outages across the region," the tourist association stated.

Power was said to be out in High Level since Monday morning.

The wildfire to the town's south had doubled in size since Sunday, and was reported to be fewer than five kilometres from the community by Monday.

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