As a wildfire forced the evacuation of High Level, officials said NWT residents should not try to travel through the community by road.
High Level, in northern Alberta, is a major stopping point on the highway system connecting the territory with the south of the province.
As thousands of High Level residents leave their community in the face of an oncoming wildfire, the NWT government said people should not try to make it past High Level either to or from the NWT.
“At this time, there is no gas available in High Level. Highway 88 is still open to the east, but there is no gas available until Red Earth Creek,” Greg Whitlock, regional superintendent for the NWT’s Department of Infrastructure, told Cabin Radio at 6:30pm MT on Monday.
Red Earth Creek is some 630 km from Hay River. Whitlock said no gas is currently available anywhere directly along that stretch.
For those stranded between Hay River and High Level, the gas station at Zama City – 65 km off Highway 35, north of Meander River – reported itself open as of 7:15pm MT on Monday. Zama City also has motel facilities.
Fort Vermilion’s gas services were reported to be closed owing to a power outage. La Crete, accessible via diversion onto Highway 697, had gas at the UFA store – which was running on generators – as of 5pm on Monday, closing for the night at 10:30pm.
Online, reports emerged of NWT residents heading to the border with fuel supplies to help oncoming traffic.
Meanwhile, a woman who said she was about to start work at Hay River’s health centre asked for help online ahead of what appeared a fraught relocation from Edmonton for her new job.
“Would it even be safe to drive that way right now?” she wrote. “I have no idea what to do.”
Signs warning travellers not to attempt the journey by road are being posted on the highway outside Enterprise, NWT.
“Our advice is not to travel,” said Whitlock, adding authorities in Alberta “may or may not” be letting traffic through on Highway 58 – needed to complete the trip – by the time travellers reach it.
High Level residents were given an evacuation order at 4pm on Monday as a wildfire approached from the south and west.
Though Highway 35 heading south from High Level is closed, the community’s 3,000 inhabitants have been told to head south via the alternative Highway 88 instead.
However, the route north to Hay River and the NWT may remain an option for some evacuees, and residents of the territory were preparing to help.