May 16, 2023 at 5 p.m. – Swan Hills evacuated, older evacuations remain in effect2023 wildfire updates

This article was updated on May 16 at 5 p.m. . We will continue to monitor the situation, if things change updates will happen throughout the weekend. Otherwise, this article will be updated on Friday, May 19 around 4:30 p.m.

In the meantime, the most up to day wildfire information is on the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard. The Town of Slave Lake will be doing wildfire updates at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. through its Voyent Alert system, its Facebook page, and the older email alert system. People can register for Voyent Alert by clicking here. People can received emails, texts, or download an app. The M.D. of Lesser Slave River has Wildfire Status updates on its website, to go to these click here. Road closures are available at 511 Alberta. A list of active wildfire evacuations and alerts are here. Once a day when the wildfire danger is high, very high, or extreme, Alberta Wildfire publishes Slave Lake Forest Area updates at https://srd.web.alberta.ca/slave-lake-area-update. For Peace River Forest Area updates go to https://srd.web.alberta.ca/peace-river-area-update.

by Pearl Lorentzen Lakeside Leader / Smoky River Express / South Peace News

On May 16 at 3 p.m., the Town of Swan Hills issued an evacuation order. Swan Hills evacuees are to go to Barrhead. This followed an evacuation alert for people to prepare for possible evacuation. People who need help evacuating should call 780-333-4477 extension 8. 

The evacuation is because of Slave Lake Wildfire 063 (SWF063), which when the initial alert was issued was 24 km northwest of Swan Hills. 

As of May 15 in the evening, SWF063 was seven km southeast of High Prairie and 24 km northwest of Swan Hills. It burnt through East Prairie, caused the Big Lakes evacuation and the Sucker Creek alert. 

At 4:30 p.m., Leah Lovequist the Slave Lake Wildfire Information officer said that she’d be writing the wildfire update after all of the reports are in and the evening meeting. 

The most recent data she had on the wildfire was from the morning briefing, when it was 25 km northwest of the community. The wind was from the northwest, so moving the fire southeast toward the community. The southern edge of the wildfire was active on May 16. 

Alberta Wildfire communicates throughout the day with community governments, which then order evacuations. 

The most up-to-date wildfire information is on the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard, which is automatically updated as information is obtained by Alberta Wildfire.  

As of May 16 at 4:45 p.m., Slave Lake Forest Area had 11 active wildfires – eight out of control and three under control. Information on the wildfires is below. 

Smoke

Smoke in Slave Lake the evening of May 15 was from Slave Lake Wildfire 057, which was over 30 km from the Town of Slave Lake. Due to the numerous wildfires in Alberta and British Columbia, smoky conditions will persist. Visit www.firesmoke.ca  to see where the smoke is coming from and to view wildfires on a map, download theAB Wildfire App or visit theAlberta Wildfire Status Dashboard.

Ongoing evacuations

Dene Tha’

The Dene Tha’ were evacuated because of the Long Lake wildfire – High Level Wildfire 036 (HWF036). As of May 14 at 7 p.m., it was out of control and estimated at 78,400 ha. It was 23 km from Chateh in Dene Tha’. On May 6, Rainbow Lake was evacuated. HWF036 surrounded Rainbow Lake, but hadn’t burnt any structures.
A May 14 High Level Wildfire Update says, “With the extreme fire behaviour yesterday, the wildfire spread significantly north, northwest and east.”

Chipewyan Lake

The Chipewyan Lake evacuation was caused by Slave Lake Forest Area Wildfire 081 (SWF081). It was started by lightning on May 14 north of the Lake. The community of Chip Lake is on the southwest shore of the lake. As of May 15, SWF081 was out of control, estimated at 1,260 ha.

Peavine Métis Settlement

On May 14 mid-morning, Peavine Metis Settlement was evacuated to Falher and Grouard.

Falher FCSS figures there are about 60 to 100 people from Peavine in Falher, living in campers or with friends and family.

For some reason, neither the earlier East Prairie Metis Settlement or Peavine Metis Settlement evacuations are on the Alberta Emergency Alert. All other evacuations are on that system.

East Prairie Metis Settlement

As of May 15, East Prairie Metis Settlement remains evacuated to High Prairie. They were evacuated on May 5.

Big Lakes County

On May 14 at 4:23 p.m., Big Lakes County ordered the evacuation of residents south of Township Road 740, west of Range Road 152, east of Range Road 162 and north of Township Road 730. A fire southeast of the Town of High Prairie is moving northeast. If you are in the affected area you must evacuate immediately.

On May 14 at 3:15 p.m., Big Lakes County issued a four-hour evacuation alert for residents south and west of Peavine Metis Settlement. Any residents south of Township Road 800, east of Range Road 200, west of Range Road 134, and north of Highway 679 are on a FOUR (4) hour evacuation notice. A fire northwest of Peavine Metis Settlement has the potential to move south.

The rest of Big Lakes County was under a four-hour evacuation alert.

Evacuation alerts

Sucker Creek First Nation and the rest of Big Lakes County were on evacuation alert, which means people living the areas are to be ready to evacuate. The Big Lakes evacuation was because of SWF063 between High Prairie and the Town of Swan Hills. The Big Lakes evacuation alerts had to do with both SWF063 and SWF068, which started northwest of Peavine Metis Settlement. 

Atikameg in Whitefish Lake First Nation was on evacuation alert after returning from evacuation to Slave Lake on May 12.

Wildfires of note: fire sizes as of May 16 at 4:45 p.m.

SWF063, SWF057, and SWF064 are the Grizzly complex.

The Grizzly complex has three wildfires started by lightning on May 4. 

SWF063 started in the Swan Hills. Originally it grew northwest and stopped moving about seven km south of High Prairie. Active evacuations connected with this wildfire are East Prairie Metis Settlement, parts of Big Lakes County, and Swan Hills. Active evacuation alerts were in Sucker Creek First Nation and the rest of Big Lakes County. 

The morning of May 16 it was 25 km from Swan Hills. On May 16, it grew southeast toward Swan Hills, which was evacuated starting at 3 p.m. on May 16. As of May 16 at 4:45 p.m., it was an estimated 69,074 hectares (ha). This growth was away from High Prairie and Sucker Creek. 

SWF057 was about 26 km south of Kinuso and over 30 km southwest of the Town of Slave Lake. It started in the Grizzly Ridge Wildland Park and got close to Hwy. 33 south of Hwy. 2. It was an estimated 8,136 ha, and not threatening any communities.

SWF064 was not near any communities. It was 40 km northwest of the Town of Swan Hills.

Nipisi Complex-SWF059,SWF060

Nipisi complex has two wildfires started by lightning on May 4. 

SWF060 was 2.3 km east of the border of Whitefish Lake First Nation. It was around 16,680 ha. 

SWF059 was further away at 23 km northeast of Whitefish, which was the closest community. It was 1,036 ha. 

Not official part of the complex, but north of these wildfires in the bush – SWF083 started on May 15 by lightning. It was out of control and an estimated 10 ha. It was southeast of Muskwa Lake, not close to any communities. 

Chipewyan Lake – Slave Lake Forest Area

Lightning started SWF081 on May 14. Fire fighters first responded at around noon. 

The afternoon of May 14 the M.D. of Opportunity put Chipewyan Lake on one-hour evacuation alert. An evacuation order was issue on May 14 at 9:30 p.m.

The M.D. sent up buses ahead of time, says Chad Tullis Opportunity CAO. They everyone, which was 34 homes. Some people are staying in hotels in Wabasca and others are at the Lakeview Sports Complex. The M.D. is providing meals and other supports. 

As of May 15, it was six km north of Chipewyan Lake and was 1,355 ha. By May 16, it grew to around 6,300 ha. 

Kimiwan complex – Peace River Forest Area

SWF068 and PWF038 make up the Kimiwan complex. 

SWF068 started west of Peavine on May 5. The cause is under investigation. Early on it moved northwest, but starting on May 14 it moved southeast. Peavine was evacuated on May 14 in the morning. As of May 16 at 4:45 p.m., it was about 65,000 ha. 

PWF038 also started on May 5 and the cause is under investigation. In the area north of Peace River. It is located approximately 17 km northeast of Three Creeks and 20 km southwest of Simon Lake. It is classified as out of control at approximately 6,207 hectares. 

For more information on this wildfire go to https://srd.web.alberta.ca/peace-river-area-update

Long Lake wildfire – High Level Forest Area

HWF036 22 Km from the community of Chateh

On May 15, the Long Lake fire High Level Wildfire 036 (HWF036) moved northeast 10 km toward Chateh in Dene Tha’ First Nation. At 9 a.m. it was 22 km from the community, by 7 p.m. it was 12 km. Firefighters were starting structural protection in Chateh. 

As of May 16 at 4:45 p.m., it was an estimated 96,387 ha. 

Volunteer to help evacuees:

As the wildfire season progresses, Slave Lake may host evacuees again. The Town of Slave Lake asks that anyone who is looking to volunteer to help with evacuees to send an email to volunteers@slavelake.ca and a Volunteer Coordinator will contact you or sign up here.

Fire ban and OHV restriction

As of May 5 and ongoing, both Slave Lake Forest Area and the Town of Slave Lake have a fire ban, including an OHV restriction. Under this fire ban:

All existing Fire Permits are suspended (or cancelled)

No new Fire Permits will be issued

Prohibited:

  • All outdoor wood fires are banned, including wood campfires on public lands, wood campfires on private land and provincial campgrounds
  • Backyard firepits
  • BBQ charcoal briquettes
  • The use of fireworks and exploding targets
  • The recreational use of off-highway vehicles (OHV) on public lands, including designated OHV trails

Allowed:

  • Propane/natural gas-powered appliances
  • Open flame oil devices (e.g., turkey deep fryers, tiki torches)
  • Indoor wood fires contained within a device with a chimney and spark arrestor
  • All appliances must be CSA approved and used per manufacturer’s standards
  • Indigenous people when using an OHV for traditional purposes. Traditional purposes are hunting, fishing, and trapping – including the use of an OHV to travel to the location(s) for these purposes.
  • Essential industry-related activities requiring the use of OHVs.
  • Off-highway vehicle use is still permitted on private lands.

hich started northwest of Peavine Metis Settlement. 

Atikameg in Whitefish Lake First Nation was on evacuation alert after returning from evacuation to Slave Lake on May 12.

Wildfires of note: fire sizes as of May 16 at 4:45 p.m.

SWF063, SWF057, and SWF064 are the Grizzly complex.

The Grizzly complex has three wildfires started by lightning on May 4. 

SWF063 started in the Swan Hills. Originally it grew northwest and stopped moving about seven km south of High Prairie. Active evacuations connected with this wildfire are East Prairie Metis Settlement, parts of Big Lakes County, and Swan Hills. Active evacuation alerts were in Sucker Creek First Nation and the rest of Big Lakes County. 

The morning of May 16 it was 25 km from Swan Hills. On May 16, it grew southeast toward Swan Hills, which was evacuated starting at 3 p.m. on May 16. As of May 16 at 4:45 p.m., it was an estimated 69,074 hectares (ha). This growth was away from High Prairie and Sucker Creek. 

SWF057 was about 26 km south of Kinuso and over 30 km southwest of the Town of Slave Lake. It started in the Grizzly Ridge Wildland Park and got close to Hwy. 33 south of Hwy. 2. It was an estimated 8,136 ha, and not threatening any communities.

SWF064 was not near any communities. It was 40 km northwest of the Town of Swan Hills.

Nipisi Complex-SWF059,SWF060

Nipisi complex has two wildfires started by lightning on May 4. 

SWF060 was 2.3 km east of the border of Whitefish Lake First Nation. It was around 16,680 ha. 

SWF059 was further away at 23 km northeast of Whitefish, which was the closest community. It was 1,036 ha. 

Not official part of the complex, but north of these wildfires in the bush – SWF083 started on May 15 by lightning. It was out of control and an estimated 10 ha. It was southeast of Muskwa Lake, not close to any communities. 

Chipewyan Lake – Slave Lake Forest Area

Lightning started SWF081 on May 14. Fire fighters first responded at around noon. 

The afternoon of May 14 the M.D. of Opportunity put Chipewyan Lake on one-hour evacuation alert. An evacuation order was issue on May 14 at 9:30 p.m.

The M.D. sent up buses ahead of time, says Chad Tullis Opportunity CAO. They everyone, which was 34 homes. Some people are staying in hotels in Wabasca and others are at the Lakeview Sports Complex. The M.D. is providing meals and other supports. 

As of May 15, it was six km north of Chipewyan Lake and was 1,355 ha. By May 16, it grew to around 6,300 ha. 

Kimiwan complex – Peace River Forest Area

SWF068 and PWF038 make up the Kimiwan complex. 

SWF068 started west of Peavine on May 5. The cause is under investigation. Early on it moved northwest, but starting on May 14 it moved southeast. Peavine was evacuated on May 14 in the morning. As of May 16 at 4:45 p.m., it was about 65,000 ha. 

PWF038 also started on May 5 and the cause is under investigation. In the area north of Peace River. It is located approximately 17 km northeast of Three Creeks and 20 km southwest of Simon Lake. It is classified as out of control at approximately 6,207 hectares. 

For more information on this wildfire go to https://srd.web.alberta.ca/peace-river-area-update

Long Lake wildfire – High Level Forest Area

HWF036 22 Km from the community of Chateh

On May 15, the Long Lake fire High Level Wildfire 036 (HWF036) moved northeast 10 km toward Chateh in Dene Tha’ First Nation. At 9 a.m. it was 22 km from the community, by 7 p.m. it was 12 km. Firefighters were starting structural protection in Chateh. 

As of May 16 at 4:45 p.m., it was an estimated 96,387 ha. 

Volunteer to help evacuees:

As the wildfire season progresses, Slave Lake may host evacuees again. The Town of Slave Lake asks that anyone who is looking to volunteer to help with evacuees to send an email to volunteers@slavelake.ca and a Volunteer Coordinator will contact you or sign up here.

Fire ban and OHV restriction

As of May 5 and ongoing, both Slave Lake Forest Area and the Town of Slave Lake have a fire ban, including an OHV restriction. Under this fire ban:

All existing Fire Permits are suspended (or cancelled)

No new Fire Permits will be issued

Prohibited:

  • All outdoor wood fires are banned, including wood campfires on public lands, wood campfires on private land and provincial campgrounds
  • Backyard firepits
  • BBQ charcoal briquettes
  • The use of fireworks and exploding targets
  • The recreational use of off-highway vehicles (OHV) on public lands, including designated OHV trails

Allowed:

  • Propane/natural gas-powered appliances
  • Open flame oil devices (e.g., turkey deep fryers, tiki torches)
  • Indoor wood fires contained within a device with a chimney and spark arrestor
  • All appliances must be CSA approved and used per manufacturer’s standards
  • Indigenous people when using an OHV for traditional purposes. Traditional purposes are hunting, fishing, and trapping – including the use of an OHV to travel to the location(s) for these purposes.
  • Essential industry-related activities requiring the use of OHVs.
  • Off-highway vehicle use is still permitted on private lands.

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