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Evacuation ordered for High Level as Alberta wildfire approaches

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Residents in High Level are preparing to leave their homes following an evacuation alert from the town. (Deb Stecyk)

People living in and near High Level, Alta., have been ordered to leave their homes because of danger posed by an out-of-control wildfire.

The Town of High Level issued an evacuation order at 4 p.m. Monday, telling residents to secure their residences and take their personal belongings. The town’s evacuation will be done by zones and residents have been told to be prepared to be away from their home for at least 72 hours. 

A mandatory evacuation order was issued at 11:40 a.m. Monday for Mackenzie County residents in the areas south and southeast of the northern Alberta town. There are currently 38 homes under the evacuation order, a spokesperson for Mackenzie County told CBC News.

Crews will be going door to door to notify affected residents, the town of High Level said on its website.

Residents have been offered support for moving livestock, the town posted in an update. 

Manned barricades will be set up on all roads to prevent people from entering the evacuated areas without permission, the town said.

The town of High Level has already declared an evacuation alert for residents to prepare to leave, as the wildfire grows closer. 

State of local emergency

A state of local emergency was declared due to the wildfires at 11:15 a.m. on Monday. 

“Residents must prepare to leave immediately when officials order an evacuation,” Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen said in a news release Monday.

“It’s important to stay vigilant at times like this and pay close attention to the advice of emergency management experts.”

The fire near the community 450 kilometres north of Grande Prairie has burned 69,000 hectares.

It has more than doubled in size since Sunday, when it was burning about 25 kilometres southwest of the town. 

The fire is now less than five kilometres south of the town, fire crews told residents Monday morning. 

Electric power in the community went out around 8:45 a.m. Monday. Atco Electric is working to get it working again, provincial information officer Derek Gagnon said.

Highway 58 to the west of the community and Highway 38 to the south are both closed. 

Alberta 511 is posting updates on its website with road closure information.

Forestry Alberta raised the wildfire danger to extreme on Monday.

Residents in the town of 3,200 are growing concerned. Fire crews have been knocking on doors warning people to prepare to flee. 

“We’re nervous,” said resident Deb Stecyk, who is packing up to leave Monday afternoon, in case an evacuation order is declared in her neighbourhood. 

“We know that if we have to leave that means we might come back to nothing like Fort McMurray or Slave Lake.

“It’s nerve-wracking because you just don’t know.” 

Fire crews have started setting up sprinklers around homes and close to the hospital and other essential service buildings, she said. 

The wildfire danger in much of northern Alberta was rated as extreme, with the risk rated as high to very high in the central-west part of the province. There are seven out-of-control fires burning in the area. 

Fire bans are in place in northern Alberta, and the Edson forest area is under a fire advisory as winds and dry conditions are expected to cause the risk of wildfires to increase.

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