Situation Update: Update 13: Northwest Alberta wildfires

Wildfire near High Level in Northwest Alberta
Wildfire near High Level in Northwest Alberta

EDMONTON – Residents of High Level, Dena Tha’ First Nation and some parts of Mackenzie County are heading home.

High Level, the surrounding areas of Mackenzie County and the Dene Tha’ First Nation communities of Bushe River, Meander River and Chateh, have been cleared for residents to return.

Returning residents will be under an evacuation alert and should be prepared to leave on short notice if conditions change.

The following communities remain on evacuation alert:

  • Town of Slave Lake
  • MD of Lesser Slave Lake, including Old Smith Highway, Mitsue, Poplar Lane, Fawcett Lake, Eben Road and Bayer Road
  • Peerless Lake area of Peerless Trout First Nation
  • Town of Manning and some surrounding areas
  • Mackenzie County: everyone north and south of the Peace River from Township Road 1030 north to Township Road 1110, west of Range Road 120 to Highway 35 south and southeast of High Level, and east of Range Road 180 (Blue Hills Road)

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for:

  • Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement
  • Some areas of Mackenzie County: west of Blues Creek, north of Highway 697, west of Blue Hills Road (RR 180) and north of Township Road 1030 and La Crete Ferry Campground to the Peace River.
  • Keg River, Carcajou, and all residents from the northern border of the County of Northern Lights to Township Road 922 (Notikewin Road)
    • Bigstone Cree Nation
      • Wabasca No. 166
    • Parts of the MD of Opportunity No. 17
    • Hamlet of Wabasca – Desmarais
    • Hamlet of Sandy Lake
    • Chipewyan Lake Village
  • Steen River
  • The Trout Lake area of Peerless Trout First Nation
  • MD of Lesser Slave River
  • Hamlet of Marten Beach

Current situation

  • Chuckegg Creek wildfire, southwest of High Level, is about 280,000 hectares.
  • Jackpot Creek wildfire, approximately 11 kilometres north of Lutose, is about 24,700 hectares.
  • McMillan Wildfire Complex, southwest of Bigstone Cree Nation, is more than 238,254 hectares.
  • Battle Wildfire Complex in Peace River is about 55,324 hectares.
  • Provincial resources on the ground include more than 2,300 wildland and structural firefighters and staff, approximately 228 helicopters and 28 air tankers and heavy equipment.
  • Residents should check Alberta Emergency Alerts for more detailed and frequently updated information.
  • People driving in fire-affected areas should carry enough fuel, as it may not be readily available.

Visit emergency.alberta.ca for detailed and frequently updated information.

Air quality

  • Smoke is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility.
  • Much of northern Alberta is under a special air quality statement.
  • Individuals may experience symptoms, such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.
  • If you experience breathing difficulties, find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated.
  • Alberta Wildfire recommends checking FireSmoke.ca to find out where the smoke is coming from.

Financial supports

  • Evacuees should check alberta.ca/emergency for updates on evacuation payment eligibility.
  • Evacuees in need of financial assistance for immediate needs can apply for an Income Support program emergency needs allowance. This benefit may cover your accommodation, clothing and other urgent needs. Please call 1-877-644-9992 for more information.
  • You may qualify for the evacuation payment if you were:
    • living, working or vacationing in the affected area
    • forced to leave due to an evacuation order
    • forced to leave your residence (primary, working or vacationing) due to a mandatory evacuation order – current communities include:
      • High Level
      • Paddle Prairie
      • Bushe River
      • Chateh
      • Meander River
      • Wabasca-Desmarais
      • Bigstone Cree Nation 166 A, B, C and D
      • Sandy Lake
      • Chipewyan Lake Village
      • Carcajou
      • Northern border of the County of Northern Lights to Township Road 922 (Notikewin Road)
    • paid for most of your costs to evacuate
  • Albertans who qualify will receive $1,250 and $500 for each dependent child under 18 living in the same home when the evacuation order was given.
  • Applications methods:
  • Apply online through the MyAlberta Evacuation Payment application using a smart phone, device or desktop. Interac e-transfers may take 24 hours to process.
  • Apply inperson at any Alberta Supports Centre.
  • Before going to an Alberta Supports Centre, please check the status of the area to ensure it is safe.
  • If you are visiting an Alberta Support Centre, please bring:
    • Photo identification
    • Proof of residence or presence in the community
    • Identification for partner/spouse and/or dependents children if claiming for them
  • If you have questions, contact Alberta Supports: 1-877-644-9992.
  • More than 6,700 individuals have received evacuee support, and more than $6.8 million has been distributed.

Reception and call centres

  • Reception centres are open at:
    • High Prairie Gordon Buchanan Centre (5413 49 Street)
    • Grande Prairie Regional College (10726 106 Avenue)
    • Peace River Misery Mountain Ski Hill (10408 89 Street)
    • Dene Wellness Centre (In K’atl’ Odeeche First Nation, 17 kilometres east of Hay River)
    • Calling Lake Recreation Centre (2870 Central Drive)
    • Back Lakes Arena (249 Red Earth)
  • The following reception centres are closed:
  • La Crete Heritage Centre (25411 Township Road 1060, south of La Crete)
  • Fort Vermilion Community Cultural Complex (5001 44 Avenue)
  • Slave Lake Legacy Centre (400 6 Avenue NE)
  • Evacuation reception centre hours can be found at emergency.alberta.ca.
  • Government’s call centre at 310-4455 will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Highway updates

  • To stay informed on all road closures due to the wildfires, visit 511.Alberta.ca or download the mobile app.
  • Highway 35 from High Level to the Northwest Territories border is open at this time. Emergency management officials are monitoring highway and wildfire conditions closely. Authorities may close the highway without warning if conditions change.
  • The following highways are closed:
    • Highway 35, south of High Level to Twin Lakes.
    • Highway 695, East and West, including Keg River.
    • Highway 697, from Highway 35 to Range Road 185, west of La Crete.
    • Highway 813 from Wabasca to Sandy Lake closed.
    • Highway 754 from Highway 88 to Wabasca.
  • The La Crete Ferry is closed.

Insurance information

  • Most home and tenant insurance policies provide coverage for living expenses during an evacuation.
  • Evacuees should retain all of their receipts for food, accommodation and other related expenses to provide to their insurer.
  • Albertans can contact the Insurance Bureau of Canada at 1-844-227-5422 or by email at askibcwest@ibc.ca. Information about insurance coverage is available online at ibc.ca/ab/disaster/alberta-wildfire.

Justice and legal matters

  • All High Level, Fort Vermilion and Chateh court matters will be heard in Peace River. Call the Peace River court at 780-624-6256 for inquiries on matters scheduled for this week and next. Matters will be held by phone, if necessary, but you must register to do so.
  • In many cases, tickets can be paid online. For any other inquiries requiring direction from the court about Peace River and High Level court matters, call the Peace River court at 780-624-6256. For Wabasca-Desmarais matters, please contact the High Prairie Court at 780-523-6600.
  • If you have an appointment with a probation officer in an evacuated area, report to the community corrections office nearest you. Please call 780-427-3109 (to call toll free, first dial 310-0000) for information.
  • If you are an intermittent server in an evacuated area, call the Peace River Correctional Centre at 780-624-5480 (to call toll-free, first dial 310-0000).

Education

  • The schools of Fort Vermilion School Division will remain closed for the remainder of the school year. Students wishing to write a diploma exam, Grade 6 or Grade 9 provincial achievement tests should make arrangements with the Fort Vermilion School Division. For further information visit: https://www.fvsd.ab.ca/
  • School officials in fire-impacted areas will address the impacts of disruption on the academic program and school year. Students or their guardians should watch for online or direct communications from local school authorities about specific changes.

Provincial park closures

  • Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Area, Moose Lake Provincial Park and Notikewin Provincial Park are closed.
  • Calling Lake Provincial Park campground is closed to accommodate evacuees from the M.D. of Opportunity. Any campground reservations will be refunded. The boat launch is available for public day use, including for anglers participating in the fishing season starting June 1.

Boil water advisory

  • Boil water advisories remain in place for Meander River (Dene Tha’ First Nation) and North Tall Cree (Little Red River Cree Nation). Although power has been restored, the boil water advisories will remain in place until water testing is complete.

Health

  • Mental health support is available by calling Alberta’s 24-hour help line at 1-877-303-2642.
  • Alberta Health Services is providing support to the reception centres. These supports include addiction and mental health, Indigenous health liaisons, nursing, emergency medical services, public health and home care.
  • Alberta Health Services has relocated acute patients and continuing care residents from La Crete and Fort Vermilion to health facilities in Edmonton and surrounding communities.
  • The emergency department at St. Theresa General Hospital in Fort Vermilion remains open.

Pets and livestock

  • High Level animal control has collected household pets that have been left behind. For questions regarding your pets, please call 780-926-2201.
  • For evacuees in the Wabasca area, please fill out an online form on the Alberta Animal Disaster Response Facebook group, or text 403-869-4964 and provide your name, contact number, number of animals missing, where they were last seen, and a brief description of your pet.
  • The County of Northern lights will allow residents to enter property to look after livestock between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Residents must first go to the County Office to register for the temporary access pass.

Electricity and natural gas billing

  • High Level and area residential, farm, irrigation and small commercial electricity and natural gas customers affected by the evacuation will not be billed for the period covered by the order.

Donations and volunteers

  • High Level is not accepting donations or volunteers at this time.
  • The Town of Slave Lake has set up an online form for offers.
  • Check the Mackenzie County Facebook page for an up-to-date list of donations needed and drop-off locations.

Canada Post

Mail service has been suspended in:

  • High Level, Meander River, Chateh, Paddle Prairie, Keg River
    • High Level evacuees can pick up mail from the Slave Lake Post Office
    • Chateh evacuees can pick up mail at the Fort Vermilion Post Office
    • Meander River evacuees can pick up mail at the La Crete Post Office

Mail service has been restored in:

  • Fort Vermilion, La Crete, Rainbow Lake, Zama City

If you require urgent access to critical items, such as medications and passports, please call 1-800-267-1177. You may be able to arrange for pick up at the Slave Lake Post Office (100 2 Street NE).

Mail will be held at the Edmonton depot until mail service resumes.

Income Support, Alberta Supports and AISH

  • Evacuees receiving the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped or the Income Support program by cheque rather than electronic deposit can pick up their cheque at their nearest Alberta Supports Centres.
  • If you are in La Crete, you can pick up your cheque at the local reception centre. If you receive your benefits via direct deposit, your payment will be deposited as usual.
  • For information on child intervention and child care, call 1-800-638-0715.
  • Persons with developmental disabilities, their families or contracted service providers can call the nearest Alberta Supports Centre for assistance.
  • For additional information on social benefits, or to find a list of Alberta Supports Centres, call 1-877-644-9992 province-wide between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday to Friday.
  • Employment insurance: evacuees can visit Service Canada online to apply at www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei.html. Use code 4812014812201900.

Health card, driver’s licences, ID cards, birth certificate

  • To get a replacement Health Care Insurance Card call 780-427-1432 or toll free at 310-0000 and then 780-427-1432 when prompted. Your Alberta Personal Health Card can be mailed to a temporary address.
  • If driver’s licences, identification cards, and/or birth certificates were left behind during the evacuation, replacement cards and certificates can be ordered free of charge at a registry agent.

Public information

  • You can call 310-4455 for more information.