Alberta wildfires cause doubling of evacuee numbers in 24 hours, now at 10,000
Chuckegg Creek fire travelled 30 kilometres in 16 hours
Another 4,500 people were forced from their homes over a 24-hour period due to smoke from fires in northern Alberta, government officials said Thursday.
"These smoke impacts have created a significant increase in evacuees," Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
"We began the day yesterday [Wednesday] with approximately 5,500 evacuees and we currently have over 10,000."
The Chuckegg Creek fire, which forced people to leave High Level at an alarmingly fast rate, hasn't been slowing.
"It travelled about 30 kilometres south yesterday [Wednesday] between noon and four o'clock [Thursday] morning, which means it was travelling at a rate of about 23 metres a minute," said Christie Tucker from Alberta Wildfire.
Dry, windy conditions and low humidity have made conditions challenging for firefighters over a 24-hour period.
Tucker said the fire moved across Highway 35 to Paddle Prairie and also jumped the Peace River, which is about 700 metres wide.
Two fires — Maria Lake and MacMillan Complex — in the Slave Lake area were growing and moving closer together.
The town of Slave Lake was on an eight-hour evacuation alert, meaning people should be ready to leave if given eight hours notice.
Evacuations also expanded in Mackenzie and Northern Lights Counties on Wednesday and Thursday
Fire officials were trying to confirm reports from Paddle Prairie residents that homes were lost due to fire.
The provincial operations centre has moved from a response Level 3 to a Level 4 since Wednesday. That means representatives of every government department are joined by federal and industry representatives like ATCO and CN Rail.