Update 10: Northwest Alberta wildfires

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

EDMONTON – Further assistance granted as wildfires continue to pose a danger to residents and responders in Alberta.

Aid measures have been approved by the Government of Alberta to be ready for new evacuees from wildfires if the circumstances of their evacuation meets qualifying points.

Residents in areas evacuated Wednesday should monitor our communications channels for information as plans are made, should disbursement of funds be required.

See the ‘Financial Supports’ section below.

Meanwhile, Alberta has obtained increased air resources for greater and faster access to isolated communities in the current fire situation. The federal government at the province’s request will make air and ground resources available for evacuations and delivery of aid and medical support.

Also seen today, improved highway travel conditions are developing.

Sections of Highway 35 have been reopened, but officials caution the conditions that led to closure may return. See the section below under ‘Highway Closures,’ and check Alberta 511.

Current situation

  • Chuckegg Creek wildfire, southwest of High Level, is about 237,000 hectares.
  • Jackpot Creek wildfire, approximately 11 km north of Lutose, is about 24,700 hectares.
  • McMillan Wildfire Complex, southwest of Bigstone Cree Nation, is over 178,000 hectares.
  • Battle Wildfire Complex in Peace River is over 52,600 hectares.
  • Provincial resources on the ground include over 1,892 wildland firefighters and staff, approximately 142 helicopters and 28 air tankers and heavy equipment.
  • New mandatory evacuations have been issued for:
    • The Trout Lake area of Peerless Trout First Nation
  • Cabinet approved two orders in council to release funds to cover emergency response, including structural firefighting efforts, evacuation costs, reception centre costs, and recovery costs including fire prevention, suppression, reclamation and reforestation.
  • Mandatory evacuations remain in place for:
    • Town of High Level and Mackenzie County areas south/southeast of town
    • Dene Tha’ First Nation communities of Bushe River, Meander River and Chateh
    • Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement
    • 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 Town of Slave Lake is on an eight-hour evacuation alert. This is not an evacuation order, but residents should be prepared to evacuate on short notice.
  • Residents should check Alberta Emergency Alerts for more detailed and frequently updated information.
  • Officials are preparing for residents to re-enter High Level once public safety has been confirmed.
  • Approximately 11,000 people have been evacuated due to wildfire activity.
  • People driving through the area should carry enough fuel for travel as fuel may not be readily available.
  • A request was made for federal aviation support and a logistical team to help communities impacted by wildfires.

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 are encouraged to continue to 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 Alberta Supports at 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
    • paid for most of your costs to evacuate
  • Albertans who qualify will receive $1,250 for each adult 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 in Alberta.
    • 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 for assistance, please remember to bring:
      • Photo identification
      • Proof of residence or presence in the community
      • Identification for partner/spouse and/or dependents childrenif claiming for them
  • If you need help applying or have questions about your online application, contact Alberta Supports: 1-877-644-9992.
  • More than 6,600 individuals have received evacuee support, and more than $6.8 million has been distributed.

Reception and call centres

  • Reception centres are open at:
    • Slave Lake Legacy Centre (400 6 Avenue NE)
    • High Prairie Gordon Buchanan Centre (5413 49 Street)
    • Grande Prairie Regional College (10726 106 Avenue)
    • Peace River Misery Mountain Ski Hill (10408 89 Street)
    • La Crete Heritage Centre (25411 Township Road 1060, south of La Crete)
    • Fort Vermilion Community Cultural Complex (5001 44 Avenue)
    • Dene Wellness Centre (In K’atl’ Odeeche First Nation, 17 kilometres east of Hay River)
    • Calling Lake Recreation Centre (2870 Central Drive)
  • Hours of operation for evacuation reception centres can be found at emergency.alberta.ca.
  • 310-4455 call centre hours are extended until Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

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. Highway and wildfire conditions are being closely monitored, and the highway may be closed without warning if conditions change or safe travel is no longer possible.
  • Highway 35, south of High Level to Township Road 922 near Manning.
  • Highway 692 near Hawk Hills.
  • Highway 695, East and West, including Keg River.
  • Highway 697, from Highway 35 to Range Road 185, west of La Crete.
  • Highway 58, from High Level to approximately 90 km west of High Level.
  • Highway 754 from Highway 88 to Wabasca.
  • The La Crete Ferry is closed.

Insurance information

  • Evacuated residents should retain all of their receipts for food purchases, accommodation and other related expenses to provide to their insurer for possible reimbursement.
  • Most home and tenant’s insurance policies provide reasonable coverage for living expenses during an evacuation. Contact your insurance company for details.
  • Albertans who cannot remember or reach their insurance provider, can contact the Insurance Bureau of Canada at 1-844-227-5422 or by email at askibcwest@ibc.ca. Information to understand your fire insurance coverage is online at ibc.ca/ab/disaster/alberta-wildfire.

Justice and legal matters

  • All High Level, Fort Vermillion 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 your name and return phone number 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.
  • If you have an appointment with a probation officer in an evacuated area, report to the community corrections office nearest you. If you do not know where the nearest one is, call 780-427-3109 (to call toll free, first dial 310-0000).
  • 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) for direction.

Education

  • Grade 12 students in the High Level area are eligible for an exemption from their diploma exam. When a student is exempt from the diploma exam, their classroom mark will be their final mark.
  • These students could also write the exam if they choose to do so and can safely make it to a school, either in their community or another. Students can also defer writing the diploma exams to August.
  • For grades 6 and 9 provincial achievement tests, students can be excused from writing. Alternatively, these students could write the tests if they can safely make it to a school, either in their community or another.
  • Once students and their families have made a decision, they should contact their school division.

Provincial parks closures

  • Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Area, Moose Lake Provincial Park and Notikewin Provincial Park are closed due to wildfire conditions.
  • Calling Lake Provincial Park campground is closed to the general public to provide accommodation to evacuees from the M.D. of Opportunity. Any existing campground reservations will be refunded. The boat launch for lake access is currently 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 Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
  • Alberta Health Services is providing supports to the receptions centres. These supports include addiction and mental health, indigenous health liaisons, nursing, emergency medical services, public health, home care and more.

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 within the Wabasa 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, address they were last seen, and a brief description of your pet.
  • The Country of Northern lights has established Temporary Access Hours from 7 am to 10 pm for residents to enter property to handle livestock care.
  • 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 mandatory evacuation order (which started on Monday May 20, 2019) will not be billed for the period covered by the mandatory evacuation order. Billing will resume after the order is lifted. Further information will also be available at that time.

Donations and volunteers

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

  • Residents receiving benefits from the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) or the Income Support program by cheque rather than electronic deposit, and who are evacuated, can visit their nearest Alberta Supports Centres to pick up their cheque.
  • 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, residents may contact 1-800-638-0715.
  • If persons with developmental disabilities, their families or contracted service providers need human, financial, or in-kind assistance to connect with loved ones, find accommodations or provide assistance to individuals receiving PDD supports, please contact 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 at no cost, you can contact 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, ID 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.
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