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No immediate threat to High Level as out-of-control wildfire burns in northwestern Alberta: officials

Wildfire officials said Monday morning there was no immediate threat to the community of High Level as a wildfire burned out of control in northwestern Alberta.

A wildfire south of High Level, Alta. was reported Sunday, west of Highway 35 and south of Highway 58.


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In an update just before 10:30 a.m. Monday, emergency officials said while there is no immediate danger to High Level, residents were asked to be aware of the situation and be prepared to evacuate if wildfire conditions change.

“We’ve been monitoring that fire very closely because of its proximity to people,” Derek Gagnon, provincial information officer with Alberta Wildfire, said Monday morning. “We do encourage residents to be vigilant about that and to make sure that they’re prepared for any situation.

“It’s estimated to be approximately 60,000 hectares in size this morning. We haven’t really been able to get a concrete estimate on just how big it is because of the smoke that has been kicking up, it makes it difficult for us to see the actual fire perimeter.”

The eastern flank of the fire had slow growth overnight. Sprinklers were being used throughout High Level and at the Tolko lumber mill on Monday as a protection operation.

Gagnon said the fire crossed Highway 58 on Sunday and was moving in a northwestern direction.

“It’s big and it’s smoky but right now it’s going just in a spot that it’s not actually hitting any sort of community,” he explained.

“There is quite a few crews up there as well as helicopters and air tankers that have been working to fight and control that wildfire.”

All of Mackwnzie County, including the town of High Level, was without power on Monday. ATCO was working to restore power, but officials warned at 10:30 a.m. Monday that the power outage was expected to last six to eight hours.

Highway 58 remained closed Monday between High Level and the Chinchaga River Bridge. Highway 35 was also closed about five kilometres south of High Level to 30 kilometres south of the town.

“As the wildfire is working through the area and as our crews are working through the area, it’s important for the members of the public to just sort of keep their distance,” Gagnon urged.

A fire ban remained in place Monday for most of northern Alberta, including Mackenzie County and the Town of High Level.

“Right now there is not a plan in place to lift the fire ban,” Gagnon said.

“The conditions in northern Alberta have not improved in a way that would allow us to take that fire ban off. We continue to see warm, hot, dry temperatures and strong winds. All of those things together make for extremely dangerous wildfire conditions.”

Since March 1, Gagnon said there have been 409 wildfires in Alberta, about 70 per cent of which were human caused. The cause of this wildfire is still under investigation.

Keep up to date on Alberta highway closures through 511 Alberta. For updated information on evacuations and wildfire threat, stay tuned to Alberta Emergency Alert.

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