Almost 300 B.C. firefighters are being sent to help fight multiple wildfires that have broken out in Alberta.
Five fires are currently classified as out of control in northern Alberta, and the B.C. crews will join firefighters from Ontario and Nova Scotia to help battle the blazes.
Local crews are already trying to put out large wildfire burning a few kilometers from the northwestern Alberta town of High Level.
The fire is rated at a Level 6, the most intense rating on the scale, meaning flames are jumping from treetop to treetop.
The last estimate at noon Tuesday put the size of the blaze at about 800 square kilometres, and has cut power to the town.
Nearly 5,000 people have been evacuated, as the flames lick the southern edge of the community, which is about 750 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
Fire officials say current wind conditions are working in their favour, projected to push southeast for the next several days, away from homes and other buildings.
“The fire is actually burning on the southwest side of High Level headed northwest,” said Bruce Mayer, the assistant deputy minister of Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry Department.
“The forecast for the next few days is the strong gusty winds will be from the southeast to east and northeast, which are all favourable from a High-Level perspective.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the fire is about five kilometres from the town. Official reports said flames were within three kilometres.
Kenney said so far no buildings have been damaged and the evacuation of the town on Monday went off without incident.
“I’m pleased to say it was a safe, orderly evacuation thanks to the co-operation of residents and first responders,” Kenney said.
Evacuee reception centres have been set up in Slave Lake and High Prairie.
Officials with the Town of Slave Lake said about 700 people had registered at the Slave Lake reception centre as of mid-morning Tuesday, other evacuees were asked to register with the Red Cross..
“Steady flow of evacuees all night there, coming throughout the night,” said Mayor Tyler Warman. “Things went well, went smoothly.
“People are very calm, very patient.”
He said they’ve booked a bunch of hotel rooms for anyone who needed one.
“We were down to the wire, but we were able to house them all,” said Warman. “We do have cots potentially available here in the future if needed, if we needed to set something up on a wider scale.”
The evacuees were told to prepare for three days away from their homes and Kenney said they could be out for as many as five days. But the danger of more fires catching is still very real.
“Unfortunately, the dry conditions in northern Alberta are expected to continue for the foreseeable future with the fire danger possibly increasing this week,” said Kenney.
The fire danger remains high to extreme across most of the northern quarter of B.C., and Wildfire Service Information Officer Kyla Fraser says 10 new fires were reported in northeastern B.C. over the long weekend, including seven on Monday.
In the south of B.C. however, the weekend rain has reduced the threat to low or very low in many areas.
With files from The Canadian Press.