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2013-05-13 at MIDNIGHT

Wildfires force Alberta evacuation orders

The Canadian Press
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NORDEGG, Alta. - An evacuation order has been issued to two small Alberta communities due to wildfires.

Emergency alerts have been issued for Nordegg and Lodgepole because two separate fires are burning within a few kilometres of each community.

The fire near Nordegg, which is 200 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, has been burning for several days and residents have been on a one-hour evacuation notice since Thursday.

Duncan MacDonnell with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development said crews had the fire contained, but officials were still poised to issue an evacuation order if the blaze broke through any containment points.

MacDonnell said the fire near Lodgepole, which is about 100 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, is new.

Wildfire information officers with the province said late Sunday that as the sun set and winds died down, the situation with both fires appeared to be calming down and their spread was slowing.

It's unclear exactly how many people are affected by the evacuations. Lodgepole's website lists its population as 200, while provincial wildfire information officer Richard Horne said between 40 and 250 people were affected in Nordegg.

An employee in the Brazeau County office said most of the people in Lodgepole had left the community earlier on Sunday. Highway 620 into Lodgepole is now closed, she said, and she didn't have any information about anyone who might have remained.

Wildfire information officer Whitney Exton said roads around Lodgepole were being closed to prevent people from heading towards the community and that the province was working with county officials to assist with the evacuation.

Horne, meanwhile, said about 250 hectares had burned in the fire near Lodgepole and that winds had pushed the blaze towards the community. He said 50 firefighters, helicopters and tankers were on the scene by Sunday evening and that additional resources were on the way.

Alberta issued a fire weather advisory for the province Sunday, saying that high winds and dry temperatures made the likelihood of uncontrolled wildfires high.

Residents of Nordegg are being told to go to Rocky Mountain House about 100 kilometres east of the community.

Lodgepole residents are being told to go to Drayton Valley, which is about 50 kilometres away.

Last week, a provincial official said conditions in some areas were similar to May 2011 when flames roared through the town of Slave Lake, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands of people to flee to safety. The wildfire caused an estimated $1 billion in damage, including firefighting and relief costs.

The Canadian Press
© The Canadian Press, 2014

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