Crews battling a massive wildfire near High Level, Alta., may be able to make some progress against the blaze Wednesday thanks to a slight shift in winds, officials say.
Despite hot and dry conditions plaguing the region, a shift in winds out of the southeast is pushing the blaze away from the High Level community, allowing firefighters to attack the blaze.
“We are looking at things like intentional ignition, where you’re intentionally setting fire to burn up some of the fuel between the town and wildfire,” Derek Gagnon, provincial information officer with Alberta Wildfire, told CTV News Channel. “Putting in structural protection, such as sprinklers that can alleviate some of the concerns of sparks that will fly off this wildfire.”
- READ MORE FROM CTVNewsEdmonton.ca: Power partially restored to High Level, province says wildfire conditions still extreme
The wildfire jumped in size late Tuesday, consuming 80,000 hectares of brush, an increase of nearly 10,000 hectares since Monday.
The blaze has forced nearly 4,000 people to flee their homes as the fire burns just three kilometres from the community.
Mackenzie County issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents in the south and southeast parts of High Level, as well as south of the Bushe River Reserve, earlier on Monday when the Town of High level declared a state of local emergency.
Josh Knelsen, Mackenzie County Town Reeve, told CTV News Channel Wednesday he hopes the worst of the fire is over.
“All we can do is pray for rain and hope that the worst is behind us and that it isbetter day sup ahead,” Reeve said.
The fire has been rated at a Level 6 -- the most intense rating on the scale -- which means flames are jumping from treetop to treetop in the tinder-dry region. Little precipitation is in the forecast over the next few days, according to Environment Canada.
As CTV News Edmonton reports, Alberta PremierJason Kenney flew into High Level on Tuesday night to see the situation first-hand. He said it’s hard to comprehend the scale of the 80,000-hectare fire unless you see it in person.
Firefighters have been working to build firebreaks southwest of the community, as the fire is too big to attack directly.
One of the biggest concerns for crews currently is wood mills on the south side of town. Officials tell CTV that the fire is burning just across the highway from one of those mills.
“We will not put any people in front of the head. It's just too dangerous from a safety perspective,” Assistant Deputy Forestry Minister Bruce Mayer said Tuesday.
An evacuation order for residents remains in effect, and officials are now urging residents to seek shelter in nearby High Prairie, as there are no more hotel rooms available in Slave Lake.
-CTV News Edmonton contributed to this report.