Evacuations by plane and boat underway in Fort Chipewyan due to ...

31 May 2023
Evacuations by plane and boat underway in Fort Chipewyan due to ...

A new wildfire in northern Alberta has become the province's priority as firefighters battle dozens of wildfires across Alberta.

The wildfire near Fort Chipewyan, Alta., grew from 300 hectares on Sunday to 4,000 by Wednesday. It is believed to have been caused by lightning. 

On Tuesday, the nearest boundary was 13 kilometres from Fort Chipewyan, according to Alberta Wildfire.

"One new wildfire that started on Sunday near Fort Chipewyan has grown relatively quickly and is now our number one priority wildfire," the agency's information unit manager Christie Tucker said.

An evacuation alert for Fort Chipewyan – including the Mikisew Cree First Nation, Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation – was upgraded to an order Tuesday evening. Fort Chipewyan has a population of a little less than 1,000.

Residents were told to register at the Archie Simpson Arena in Fort Chipewyan, where they would be assigned a flight out of the area. 

Fort Chipewyan is only accessible by plane or boat. As flights geared up Wednesday morning, officials said some residents may also be removed via the Athabasca River. 

"Fort Chipewyan leadership is asking all residents to remain calm and wait to be informed. Evacuating in stages is needed due to limited space at the airport," Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Billy-Joe Tuccaro told community members. 

"At this time, the priority for evacuation continues to be vulnerable and elderly people. If you are in this group, you are asked to register at the Archie Simpson arena. Do not go directly to the airport at this time." 

Allison Bay was scheduled to be one of the first areas evacuated because it is the closes community to the wildfire's boundary.

As of Wednesday morning, about 420 of Mikisew's 585 members had left. 

Evacuees will go to either Fort McMurray or Fort McKay. 

Six helicopters helping with bucketing and two airtankers groups were assisting firefighters on Tuesday. More resources were expected to arrive Wednesday.

Across the province, 66 wildfires were burning Wednesday morning, 18 of which were out of control.

More than 3,500 Albertans are away from their homes due to wildfires.

Officials will give a wildfire update at 3 p.m. Watch live on CTVNewsEdmonton.ca.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nicole Lampa

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