Wildfire forces evacuation of northern Alberta First Nation

The wildfire near Marlboro Alta. has jumped Highway 16 according to RCMP

The wildfire near Marlboro Alta. has jumped Highway 16 according to RCMP

The Town of High Level announced Monday that residents should fill their gas tanks, gather important documents and prepare food and water in case an evacuation order is issued.

The largest fire in Alberta is close to 80,000 hectares in size.

There has been nearly no rain in the northern half of the province since the beginning of April, and warm temperatures and winds have made conditions ideal for fires.

The alert said the fire is burning west of Highway 35 and south of Highway 58.

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As of Monday there were five fires listed as out-of-control, and 13 others listed as under control, and a 14 listed as "being held". Officials said residents were being given an opportunity to return to their homes to gather medications, supplies and other belongings.

"We've been responding to this fire for several days now, the extreme conditions are really hard to work in and safety factors have limited our access to the fire in any real meaningful way", said Alberta Wildfire incident commander Scott Elliot in a conference Monday.

"People are of course afraid because they remember the wildfires of Fort McMurray, but we talked to a lot of the residents and reaffirmed that we are being proactive", High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer said in the conference call with reporters.

Crews can be deployed out-of-province for up to 19 days, but can be recalled at any time.

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"We're excited to pay it forward a little bit", he said. They have been directed to communities hundreds of kilometres south.

The blaze has eaten its way through about 800 square kilometres of timber, with the main area of spread on the northwest side away from town. Two major industrial players in High Level have been forced to shutter operations and firefighters are working to protect their infrastructure.

Another 60 emergency service volunteers, as well as RCMP and Sheriffs, are patrolling the community to keep it safe.

Leslie Snyder, whose family has owned the Tim Hortons for about five years, said six employees volunteered to stay behind during the evacuation. "Fires have become more complicated in that there's a lot of pressures on the landscape and there's a lot of land use in Alberta". Tolko Industries Ltd. on Wednesday said it suspended operations at its lumber mill, and Norbord Inc. on Tuesday said it halted production at its oriented strand board mill.

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