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May 18 at 10:15 a.m. – Four-hour evac alert for

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May 18, 2023

This article was updated on May 18 at 10:15 a.m. . We will continue to monitor the situation, if things change updates will happen throughout the weekend. Otherwise, this article will be updated on Friday, May 19 around 4:30 p.m.

In the meantime, the most up to day wildfire information is on the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard. The Town of Slave Lake will be doing wildfire updates at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. through its Voyent Alert system and its Facebook page. People can register for Voyent Alert by clicking here. People can received emails, texts, or download an app. The M.D. of Lesser Slave River has Wildfire Status updates on its website, to go to these click here. Road closures are available at 511 Alberta. A list of active wildfire evacuations and alerts are here. Once a day when the wildfire danger is high, very high, or extreme, Alberta Wildfire publishes Slave Lake Forest Area updates at https://srd.web.alberta.ca/slave-lake-area-update. For Peace River Forest Area updates go to https://srd.web.alberta.ca/peace-river-area-update.

by Pearl Lorentzen Lakeside Leader / Smoky River Express / South Peace News

Firefighters are fighting 10 out of control and two held wildfires in the Slave Lake Forest Area. Growth yesterday on two of the three wildfires by Smith and the Chipewyan Lake wildfire.

Three  (SWF085, SWF086 and SWF087)wildfires five km west of Smith and 30 km east of Slave Lake, were not threatening either community. However, on May 17 at 9:50 p.m. the M.D. of Lesser Slave River issued the following four-hour evacuation alert for some rural residents:

“The warning is for all residents along Old Smith Highway from Township Road 715 (Smith Bridge) to Range Road 45 (Tollenaar Bridge). There is a fire burning approximately 5 km away from the Old Smith Highway. There is a potential weather pattern change expected. Please be prepared to evacuate within 4 hours. No evacuation is required currently. With worsening weather conditions, this fire could force evacuation of the affected area.”

People living in these areas should prepare to possibly evacuate. People should stay tuned to www.alberta.emergencyalert and local radio stations for updates. The Leader will also monitor the situation. As of May 18 at 10:15 a.m., the alert was still active and hadn’t changed.

This was the only new evacuation alert in the area on May 17. The following communities in the area remain evacuated: East Prairie Métis Settlement, Peavine Metis Settlement, Town of Swan Hills, and Big Lakes County (south of High Prairie). Sucker Creek First Nation is on a one-hour evacuation alert, which means people should be ready to evacuate within one-hour, but are not ordered to evacuate. Slave Lake is hosting evacuees from Dene Tha’ First Nation, west of High Level.

The most up-to-date wildfire information is on the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard, which is automatically updated as information is obtained by Alberta Wildfire.  

Potential road closure

Highway 2 remains open however could be closed at anytime. For the latest road conditions visit https://511.alberta.ca/#:Alerts

Smoke

Smoke in Slave Lake the evening of May 15 was from Slave Lake Wildfire 057, which was over 30 km from the Town of Slave Lake. Due to the numerous wildfires in Alberta and British Columbia, smoky conditions will persist. Visit www.firesmoke.ca  to see where the smoke is coming from and to view wildfires on a map, download theAB Wildfire App or visit theAlberta Wildfire Status Dashboard.

Wildfires of note – fire sizes as of May 17 9 a.m.

Smith wildfires

Firefighters with helicopters are working on three wildfires (SWF085, SWF086 and SWF087) located approximately five kilometres west of Smith and 30 km east of Slave Lake. These wildfires are classified as burning out of control.

These wildfires started on May 16 along the railway tracks west of Smith, on the other side of the Athabasca River. The cause is under investigation. As of May 18 at 9:30 a.m., the closest wildfire to Smith (5 km away) SWF086 was 1,334 ha. The middle wildfire SWF085 was 10 ha. The one west of the Spurfield crossing was 690 ha. This was the one 30 km east of Slave Lake.

As of May 17 at 9:15 p.m., a Slave Lake Forest Area Wildfire Update says, “Due to extremely dry conditions and gusty winds the wildfires spread rapidly this afternoon. Winds are currently from the north and the wildfires are not spreading towards Smith or Slave Lake at this time. Firefighters, water skimming airtankers and helicopters with buckets continue to fight these wildfires.”

If the wind shifts, they may spread toward the Old Smith Highway (see evacuation alert earlier in the article).

SWF086 Photo taken May 17th, 2023 at 8:13 p.m. Courtesy of Alberta Wildfire.

Grizzly complex – SWF063, SWF057, and SWF064

The Grizzly complex has three wildfires started by lightning on May 4. As of May 18 at 9:30 a.m., these were SWF063 (92,742 ha), SWF057 (8,711 ha), and SWF064 (28,427 ha). SWF063 ongoing evacuation because of this wildfire are East Prairie, parts of Big Lakes County south of High Prairie, and the Town of Swan Hills. Sucker Creek was under a one-hour evacuation alert because of this fire. The other two were not threatening any communities. SWF057 was over 30 km southwest of Slave Lake and 26 km south of Kinuso. SWF064 was west of SWF063 and not near any communities.

SWF063 started in the Swan Hills. Originally it grew northwest and stopped moving about seven km south of High Prairie. It has been seven km south of High Prairie since May 7.  

The morning of May 16 it was about 25 km from Swan Hills. On May 16, it grew southeast toward Swan Hills, which was evacuated starting at 3 p.m. on May 16. As of May 16 at 4:45 p.m., it was an estimated 69,074 hectares (ha). This growth was away from High Prairie and Sucker Creek, but toward Swan Hills.

As of May 17 at 9:15 p.m., the Slave Lake Forest Area Wildfire Update says, “SWF-063 located approximately seven kilometers south of High Prairie and approximately 16 kilometres northwest of Swan Hills is classified as burning out of control and has burned an estimated 92,742 hectares. Firefighters continued to work in the northern end of the wildfire extinguishing hotspots and flareups. Heavy equipment was building fire guard around the fire excursion in the East Prairie Metis Settlement and helicopters were bucketing on a flare up in the Banana Belt area. On the southern end of the wildfire, heavy equipment was building fire guard around the excursion that occurred south of Moosehorn River and firefighters are working on various strategies to reduce further wildfire spread towards the community of Swan Hills.There are 50 firefighters and two heavy equipment groups working on this wildfire.”

As of May 17 at 9:15 p.m., the Slave Lake Forest Area Wildfire Update says, “SWF-057 located approximately 26 kilometres south of Kinuso and over 30 kilometers southwest of the Town of Slave Lake, is classified as out of control and has burned an estimated 8,711 hectares. Firefighters with nodwells and helicopters continue to work along highway 33 to extinguish hotspots. Heavy equipment has built fire guard around the small excursion from yesterday and firefighters conducted hand ignition on the southwest portion of the wildfire to reduce fire fuels. Overall there was very low fire behavior observed today. There are 29 firefighters and two heavy equipment groups working on this wildfire.”

As of May 17 at 9:15 p.m., “SWF-064 located over 40 kilometers northwest of Swan Hills is classified as out of control and has burned approximately 28,427 hectares. No significant growth was observed on the wildfire today however interior areas were smoking.The fire guard on the northeast and northwest side of the wildfire is holding. There are two heavy equipment groups working on this wildfire.”

Nipisi complex – SWF060

Nipisi complex has two wildfire started by lightning on May 4, these wildfires have now joined and are called SWF060 (35,000 ha). It is north and northeast of Utikuma Lake. Not officially part of the complex, SWF083 started on May 15, at 10 ha. As of May 19, it was still 10 ha. It is in the bush northeast of these wildfires, southeast of Muskwa Lake, and not close to any communities.

As of May 17 at 9:15 p.m., the Slave Lake Forest Area Wildfire Update says, “SW060 located 2.3 kilometres east of the border of the Whitefish Lake First Nation is classified as burning out of control and has burned approximately 35,000 hectares. Yesterday, SWF059 and SWF060 have joined at the north end. There was no significant growth on this wildfire today. The southwest end of the wildfire closest to the Whitefish Lake First Nation Community border continued to hold and a sprinkler lines has been set up along the community FireSmart fire guard located north of the community. There are 66 firefighters, four heavy equipment groups and 14 helicopters working on these wildfires.”

Chipewyan Lake – Slave Lake Forest Area

Lightning started SWF081 on May 14. The afternoon of May 14 the M.D. of Opportunity put Chipewyan Lake on one-hour evacuation alert. An evacuation order was issue on May 14 at 9:30 p.m. As of May 19 at 9:30 a.m., it had not reached the community of Chipewyan Lake, but had grown considerably. It started north six km north of Chipewyan Lake, and moved south between it and Carrot Lake. As of May 18 at 9:30 a.m., it was 15,850 ha.

As of May 17 at 9:15 p.m., the Slave Lake Forest Area Wildfire Update says, “SWF081 located around Chipewyan Lakes is classified as burning out of control. The wildfire did experience some growth today however the spread has slowed down this evening. The local fire department and wildland firefighters continued to work on setting up sprinklers on homes in the community and along the east side of the lake. Heavy equipment will continue building fire guard around the community again tonight.”

Chipewyan Lake wildfire SWF081 courtesy of M.D. of Opportunity Emergency Management May 17 social media update.

Kimiwan complex – Peace River Forest Area

As of May 16 at 9:15 a.m., SWF068 (38 kilometers south of Cadotte Lake and 39 kilometers south of Little Buffalo) was  (91,599 ha) and PWF038  north of Peace River (approximately 17 km northeast of Three Creeks and 20 km southwest of Simon Lake) was (6,129 ha). As of May 19, Peavine remains evacuated because of SWF068. Both wildfires started on May 5 and the causes are under investigation.

The May 17 4 p.m. Peace River Forest Area Wildfire Update says, “The Kimiwan Complex Wildfire PCX001 (SWF068 and PWF038) – SWF068 is classified as Out of Control (OC). Strong gusting wends yesterday evening and overnight resulted in this wildfire’s growth south and east by about 26,000 ha. It is estimated to be approximately 90,000 ha in size. Peavine Metis Settlement is under a mandatory evacuation notice due to the fire’s activity on the southwest flank. The wildfire’s north perimeter is approximately 38 kilometers south of Cadotte Lake and 39 kilometers south of Little Buffalo. PWF038 is also out of control, and approximately 6,207 ha. It has remained relatively stable, with wildland firefighters patrolling and putting out hotspots to maintain containment lines.”

For more information on this wildfire go to https://srd.web.alberta.ca/peace-river-area-update

Long Lake wildfire – High Level Forest Area

As of May 19, Slave Lake continues to host evacuees from Dene Tha’ First Nation (Chateh) west of High Level. On May 15, the Long Lake fire High Level Wildfire 036 (HWF036) moved northeast 10 km toward Chateh in Dene Tha’ First Nation. At 9 a.m. it was 22 km from the community, by 7 p.m. it was 12 km. Firefighters were starting structural protection in Chateh. 

As of May 16 at 7 p.m., it was an estimated 96,387 ha. By May 19 at 9:30 a.m., HWF036 was 102,274 ha.

As of May 17 at 7 p.m. the High Leve Forest Area Wildfire Update says, “This wildfire is located approximately 13 km from the community of Chateh. Teams are working hard on securing existing fire guards west of the community of Chateh. Additional crews have arrived and are helping suppress the fire and extinguish excursions. 

“Today there are 138 firefighters, 10 helicopters and 15 heavy equipment working on the Long Lake Fire. Structural protection crews will continue protecting structures within the area as the wildfire situation evolves. These crews continue to patrol the Town of Rainbow Lake, throughout the day and night to spot any hotspots and excursions within the town. Wildland Urban Interface crews have deployed to the community of Chateh to work on structural protection operations, Firesmart work around homes and operationalize the defense plan.”

Ongoing evacuations

Alberta Wildfire communicates throughout the day with community governments. Community governments then issue evacuation alerts and orders. So far this wildfires season, Slave Lake Forest Area communities have had time to issue an evacuation alert for people to get ready before issuing an order. Not all alerts have resulted in an evacuation order.

Swan Hills

On May 16 at 3 p.m., the Town of Swan Hills issued an evacuation order. Swan Hills evacuees are to go to Barrhead. This followed an evacuation alert for people to prepare for possible evacuation. People who need help evacuating should call 780-333-4477 extension 8. 

The evacuation is because of Slave Lake Wildfire 063 (SWF063), which when the initial alert was issued was 24 km northwest of Swan Hills. 

As of May 15 in the evening, SWF063 was seven km southeast of High Prairie and 24 km northwest of Swan Hills. It burnt through East Prairie, caused the Big Lakes evacuation and the Sucker Creek alert. 

Dene Tha’

The Dene Tha’ were evacuated because of the Long Lake wildfire – High Level Wildfire 036 (HWF036). As of May 14 at 7 p.m., it was out of control and estimated at 78,400 ha. It was 23 km from Chateh in Dene Tha’. On May 6, Rainbow Lake was evacuated. HWF036 surrounded Rainbow Lake, but hadn’t burnt any structures.
A May 14 High Level Wildfire Update says, “With the extreme fire behaviour yesterday, the wildfire spread significantly north, northwest and east.”

Chipewyan Lake

The Chipewyan Lake evacuation was caused by Slave Lake Forest Area Wildfire 081 (SWF081). It was started by lightning on May 14 north of the Lake. The community of Chip Lake is on the southwest shore of the lake. As of May 15, SWF081 was out of control, estimated at 1,260 ha.

Peavine Métis Settlement

On May 14 mid-morning, Peavine Metis Settlement was evacuated to Falher and Grouard.

Falher FCSS figures there are about 60 to 100 people from Peavine in Falher, living in campers or with friends and family.

For some reason, neither the earlier East Prairie Metis Settlement or Peavine Metis Settlement evacuations are on the Alberta Emergency Alert. All other evacuations are on that system.

East Prairie Metis Settlement

As of May 15, East Prairie Metis Settlement remains evacuated to High Prairie. They were evacuated on May 5.

Big Lakes County

On May 14 at 4:23 p.m., Big Lakes County ordered the evacuation of residents south of Township Road 740, west of Range Road 152, east of Range Road 162 and north of Township Road 730. A fire southeast of the Town of High Prairie is moving northeast. If you are in the affected area you must evacuate immediately.

Evacuation alerts

Sucker Creek First Nation was on a one-hour evacuation alert, which means people living the areas are to be ready to evacuate. The Big Lakes evacuation was because of SWF063 between High Prairie and the Town of Swan Hills.

Volunteer to help evacuees:

As the wildfire season progresses, Slave Lake may host evacuees again. The Town of Slave Lake asks that anyone who is looking to volunteer to help with evacuees to send an email to volunteers@slavelake.ca and a Volunteer Coordinator will contact you or sign up here.

Fire ban and OHV restriction

As of May 5 and ongoing, both Slave Lake Forest Area and the Town of Slave Lake have a fire ban, including an OHV restriction. Under this fire ban:

All existing Fire Permits are suspended (or cancelled)

No new Fire Permits will be issued

Prohibited:

  • All outdoor wood fires are banned, including wood campfires on public lands, wood campfires on private land and provincial campgrounds
  • Backyard firepits
  • BBQ charcoal briquettes
  • The use of fireworks and exploding targets
  • The recreational use of off-highway vehicles (OHV) on public lands, including designated OHV trails

Allowed:

  • Propane/natural gas-powered appliances
  • Open flame oil devices (e.g., turkey deep fryers, tiki torches)
  • Indoor wood fires contained within a device with a chimney and spark arrestor
  • All appliances must be CSA approved and used per manufacturer’s standards
  • Indigenous people when using an OHV for traditional purposes. Traditional purposes are hunting, fishing, and trapping – including the use of an OHV to travel to the location(s) for these purposes.
  • Essential industry-related activities requiring the use of OHVs.
  • Off-highway vehicle use is still permitted on private lands.

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