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Wildfire threatening road access forces evacuation of Garden River in northern Alberta

People who live in a remote rural area in far northwestern Alberta are being ordered to leave their homes because a wildfire is threatening the only road out of the community.

An evacuation order was issued at noon Wednesday for Garden River, also known as Garden Creek, a settlement that’s part of the Little Red River Cree Nation near High Level, Alta.

Residents were asked to be out of their homes by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

There is a wildfire eight to 10 kilometres north of Highway 58, the Alberta Emergency Alert and First Nation said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the alert said Garden River itself is not in immediate danger, but the Highway 58 access to Garden River is the concern.

“We don’t want anyone getting trapped,” Little Red River Cree Nation Chief Conroy Sewepagaham said in a video post about the evacuation order. “We don’t want them or any of our members to be stuck without any access.”

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Sewepagaham added if the fire spreads, it could result in power outages due to transmission lines being burned.

“Please do not be alarmed, we are still a safe distance from the fire,” a memo from the community to residents added.

The Semo Wildfire Complex is 39,955 hectares and was first detected at the beginning of the month. Alberta Wildfire believes it was sparked by lightning.

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Sewepagaham said more than 100 firefighters are working on the blaze.

Wildfire threatening road access forces evacuation of Garden River in northern Alberta - image

Garden River is located in the High Level forest area, where the wildfire danger risk was extreme on Wednesday and a fire restriction is in place.

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According to Statistics Canada census data, Garden River is home to between 600 and 700 people and is located along the Peace River in the far northwestern corner of the province.

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Residents were told to make their way in a safe and calm manner to the Horizon Camp at John D’or Prairie, located 88 kilometres to the west.

“We ask that drivers be mindful of safety on the roads,” the memo said. “Maintain a safe distance between vehicles and keep to safe speeds of 80 km/h or under. Smoke and dust may affect visibility and there will be increased traffic on the roads.”

The Alberta Emergency Alert says support will be available in John D’or Prairie and residents were told to bring medications for multiple days and important documents.

Residents with questions are asked to contact Jacanta Nanooch at (780) 841-9747.

Alberta Wildfire said there are currently 34 fires burning in the High Level forest area.

Of these, 10 are out of control, 13 are being held, and 11 are classified as under control. Two of these wildfires are carry-over fires from the 2023 season. There are also two wildfires along borders: one shared with British Columbia and one with the Northwest Territories.

Since Jan. 1, 2024, there have been 113 wildfires in the High Level forest area, burning a total of 116,269 hectares.

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The wildfire risk is extreme for almost all of Alberta amid record-setting temperatures in the mid-30 degrees.

Wildfire threatening road access forces evacuation of Garden River in northern Alberta - image

For the latest information on which areas in Alberta are under an evacuation alert or order due to a wildfire, visit the Alberta Emergency Alert website.

For the latest information on the wildfire status and danger across the province, visit the Alberta Wildfire website.

The latest information on fire advisories, restrictions and bans across the province can be found on the Alberta fire bans website.


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