Evacuation ordered for part of Cold Lake First Nations, other alerts lifted

First Nation of Cold Lake #149 residents near the fire told to leave area immediately

Some residents of Cold Lake-area First Nations have been told they need to evacuate the area immediately as flames approach, while people living in a hamlet near Fort McMurray have had the evacuation alert for their community cancelled.

An emergency alert was issued just before 5 p.m. for First Nation of Cold Lake #149 (Legoff) due to a wildfire nearby. Residents have been told to go to the community hall and to look for updates on social media.

The alert states the wildfire is burning in the area between Range Road 430 and Range Road 434.

Alberta wildfire evacuation alert - April 23, 2024

Meanwhile, near Slave Lake, a wildfire fire in the area of Canyon Creek triggered a temporary closure of Highway 2 on Sunday afternoon. For several hours, sections of the highway near the fire were experiencing poor visibility due to the smoke. The highway has since reopened.

An evacuation alert issued Monday afternoon for the community of Bilby Common, a subdivision in rural Lac Ste. Anne County, was also later cancelled.

Saprae Creek fire

The hamlet of Saprae Creek Estates, about 30 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray, was on evacuation alert until Monday night when the alert was cancelled. A critical wildfire alert for the hamlet in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo was first issued Sunday afternoon.

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The fire near Saprae Creek started Sunday, about six kilometres outside the hamlet.

The fire, which has already consumed nearly 70 hectares of forest, is burning about 4.5 kilometres east of Saprae Creek. As of Monday night, the fire was listed as being held.

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CBC - Aerial view of Saprae Creek Estates fire - Alberta Wildfire

An aerial view of the wildfire southeast of Fort McMurray near Saprae Creek Estates. (Alberta Wildfire)

"Yesterday crews and resources worked to strengthen the fireguard along the western flank of the wildfire," Alberta Wildfire said in a statement Monday.

"They are working towards containing that flank of the fire and then they will work towards controlling it."

RELATED: Wildfires prompt alerts for hamlet near Fort McMurray, Cold Lake First Nations

Residents advised to pack 72-hour emergency kits

Helicopter crews worked throughout the night to douse the flames and that work will continue as long as conditions permit, officials said.

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Air tankers will also lay down more fire retardant along the fire's edge as crews continue to fight along the western flank and work to douse a nearby spot fire.

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Four firefighting crews, six helicopters, two air tanker groups and five heavy equipment groups will be working on the fire Monday.

In a statement to social media Sunday, municipal officials said people should pay attention to official wildfire updates, make an emergency plan with family and pack a 72-hour emergency kit.

Jody Butz, regional fire chief and director of emergency management for the municipality, said officials are hopeful that progress is being made.

"We're going to watch the heat of the day to see how the fire reacts to the temperatures to see if our mitigation efforts were successful," Butz said.

"We're staying focused on the fire but we're feeling really good about it. We're optimistic that all the suppression efforts were successful yesterday."

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Butz said the fire is a reminder that all residents need to be prepared for the wildfire season ahead.

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Rose Paterson, who lives in Saprae Creek, said her family is well-prepared, especially after living through the 2016 wildfire.

"That time was a big surprise that we actually couldn't go home for three months," she said. "So, this time we're like 'OK, let's be a little more prepared.' So we had each of the kids round up a bag with a few nights of clothes and their most precious, irreplaceable things. And had our cars packed and ready to go."

Alberta wildfires as of April 22, 2024

Drones interfere with firefighting efforts

Paterson said the municipality has been doing a great job with communication and keeping residents up to date.

RCMP have urged residents to stay away from the fire and said drones flying in the area were interfering with firefighting efforts. In a statement Sunday, RCMP said drones had temporarily grounded helicopters that had been deployed to the area.

Provincial wildfire officials have warned that dry conditions over the winter have increased the risk of wildfires this spring, and warmer temperatures and rising winds over the weekend could increase the risk of fires.

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As of Monday afternoon, 65 wildfires were burning across Alberta,.

In 2016, a massive wildfire engulfed the city of Fort McMurray, driving thousands of people from their homes and destroying 2,400 buildings.

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This article was originally written by Wallis Snowdon and published for CBC News.

Thumbnail image courtesy: Alberta Wildfire