High Level wildfire evacuees arrive in NWT’s South Slave
Families seeking refuge from a wildfire threatening the northern Alberta town of High Level have begun arriving in Hay River and nearby NWT communities.
An evacuation order was issued at 4pm on Monday as a growing wildfire came within a few kilometres of High Level, which has 3,000 residents.
By Tuesday morning, the South Slave’s Kátł’odeeche First Nation said some evacuees had reached the community and more were expected.
“There was a family that came yesterday [and there were] supposed to be more families arriving last night,” Chief April Martel told Cabin Radio.
“A lot of them are just tired and sleeping. We’re trying to accommodate them to make sure that they’re safe and, you know, a ‘home away from home’ kind of thing.
“I feel for them. We’re just trying to help High Level as much as we could.”
The First Nation opened its Dene Wellness Centre to house evacuees. Martel expects at least three to four High Level families to make use of the facility in the coming days.
Near High Level, Bushe River was also subject to an evacuation order issued by the Dene Tha’ First Nation, as were surrounding rural areas.
Authorities had recommended on Monday that affected residents evacuate to the south and east of those communities. Reception centres were established in La Crete, Slave Lake, and High Prairie.
However, a handful of evacuees had been expected to seek shelter north of the town, in the NWT.
Peter Magill, who runs Hay River’s tourist information centre, said: “In true Hay River fashion, people will pull it together and make it comfortable for these people who are there in this time of need.”
The Town of High Level said on Tuesday the nearby wildfire is not currently posing an immediate threat to the town itself. The precautionary evacuation was “successfully completed” by 10pm on Monday, the Town said online.
The NWT has not sent any firefighters or equipment to support efforts to contain the High Level fire.
A spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told Cabin Radio by email: “Present high to extreme conditions throughout the NWT have our firefighters stationed here and on standby.”
Separately, the Town of Hay River has issued a partial fire ban.
From 1pm on Tuesday, all fires other than those in approved backyard fire pits are banned in the municipality. All previously issued permits are cancelled for the duration of the ban.
Three person-caused wildfires have been reported in the South Slave in the past three days. The NWT government has urged people not to drive to or from the NWT and Alberta via High Level.
Sara Wicks contributed reporting.