Dry, windy weather making work tough for firefighters in northern Alberta

Dry and windy conditions continue to challenge firefighters battling the gigantic Chuckegg Creek blaze a few kilometres southwest of High Level, Alta., as another northern Alberta community faces a looming wildfire threat.

In the Slave Lake forest area, a new wildfire started Sunday 14 kilometres southeast of Trout Lake, a community that is home to about 350 people.

The out-of-control fire is estimated to be about 300 hectares in size.

A provincial emergency alert issued on behalf of Peerless Trout First Nation on Sunday night said residents of the remote community should be prepared it to be evacuated on short notice.

Ground crews, air tankers, helicopters and bulldozers are all being used in fighting that fire, Alberta Wildfire said in an update Sunday.

Meantime, firefighters are still keeping a close eye on weather conditions as they battle the fire near High Level.

The Chuckegg Creek fire is approximately 107,000 hectares in size, the latest report from Alberta Wildfire states.

A shift in wind direction created challenges for firefighters Sunday, but officials expect winds to push flames to the northwest, away from the townsite by Monday afternoon.

The Chuckegg Creek fire is one of five currently burning out of control in the province; 12 others are under control.

Poor air quality

Heave smoke from wildfires has resulted in a 24-hour heavy smoke warning for communities in northern Alberta.

Smoke from wildfires is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility in some areas, a statement from Environment Canada said Monday.

People may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. People with breathing difficulties are encouraged to stay indoors.

Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung diseases such as asthma are especially at risk.

Almost 5,000 people from High Level and nearby First Nations have been out of their homes for a week since the areas were evacuated May 20.

Officials have said the evacuees should not expect to return before sometime later this week and that provincial emergency funds for their gas, food and other expenses should be available by Monday.

In a video posted online Sunday afternoon, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he would be visiting the provincial emergency operations centre in Edmonton once the wind shifted to monitor the conditions.

“I want to thank our tremendous emergency personnel and firefighters for all of the great work that they have been doing to create the best possible preparation for this change in the direction of the winds so we’re hoping and praying for the best tonight,” Kenney said in the video.

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