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Residents still on alert after fire evacuation order lifted in Alberta hamlet near Edson

An evacuation order has been lifted after an out-of-control fire forced people from their homes in the central Alberta hamlet of Marlboro.

Winds and dry conditions expected to increase the risk of wildfires

Smoke fills the sky from a wildfire near Marlboro, Alta. Residents of the hamlet were forced to leave their homes on Sunday. (Jolene Belcourt-Mitchell)

An evacuation order has been lifted after an out-of-control fire forced people from their homes in the central Alberta hamlet of Marlboro.

The fire is now being held but high winds Monday morning could spread the flames, RCMP said.

On Sunday, members of the small community west of Edson were told to leave their houses. Fire threatened several homes on the north and south sides of Highway 16.

The evacuation order was lifted at 9 a.m. Monday, a spokesperson for Yellowhead County said. There is still an evacuation alert in place, which means residents must be ready to leave their homes on short notice.

Dustin and Felicia Brown and their three children returned to their Marlboro home Monday after spending Sunday night in a hotel in Edson. But they were only home long enough to pack up some belongings.

Dustin Brown said he was among those who had to drive out of Fort McMurray during the 2016 wildfire, and is not interested in taking chances with his family's safety this time.

"I wasn't going to risk it," Brown said. "We're going to go back into Edson and stay in the truck camper and hopefully this will either be contained or put out."

Dustin Brown said he and his family plan to camp in Edson while their rural home is threatened by a wildfire. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Another Marlboro resident, Georgina Gauchier, said she didn't plan to leave home unless ordered out.

"If they tell me to leave, I'll leave and leave everything," Gauchier said outside her home, "because this is only material things. Our life, my children, my grandchildren — they're the most important thing in my life."

Gauchier did take the time Monday to pack up some framed family photographs she doesn't want to risk losing.

Marlboro, Alta., resident Georgina Gauchier pulls a photograph off the wall in her home on Monday. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The news was shared with residents at the Royal Canadian Legion in Edson, at a breakfast organized for those who had to flee their homes. An estimated 87 people are there waiting to return home.

"There were a lot of nervous and very worried faces in the room," said Bobbi Foulds. 

The Edson resident organized the event for people from Malboro at the legion. Residents arrived at 6:30 a.m.

Highway 16 reopens

Highway 16 closed Sunday after the wildfire jumped the highway. It reopened at midnight.

Fire crews were called to battle the fire around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, according to Yellowhead County fire chief Albert Bahri. 

They were concerned the blaze could spread to buildings in the area. The highway was closed when flames jumped the highway, but has reopened once crews managed to get it under control. 

The nearby CN Rail line was also shut down for around six hours on Sunday, said Bahri.

"On a long weekend, when you shut down Highway 16, you're shutting down an artery that leads from Alberta to British Columbia," he said. 

"There are lots of people travelling east and west, we had no choice. When the fire crossed the highway, there was no visibility [and] there were spot fires in the centre median." 

There is a possibility of another closure depending on winds Monday, he said. 

The town of High Level has also declared an evacuation alert, as an out-of-control fire rages five kilometres from its borders. There is a power outage in the town and fire crews are setting up sprinklers, as residents of the 3,200-person community prepare to leave if needed. The 69,000-hectare fire has doubled in size since Sunday.

The wildfire danger in much of northern Alberta was rated as extreme, with the risk rated as high to very high in the central-west part of the province.

Fire bans are in place in northern Alberta, and the Edson forest area is under a fire advisory as winds and dry conditions are expected to cause the risk of wildfires to increase.

Marlboro residents were allowed to return to their homes at 9 a.m. Monday, but they are on evacuation alert. ( Stephanie Pollard)

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