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Heavy smoke warnings called as wildfire grows to over 100,000 hectares

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DH Calgary Staff May 27, 2019 12:01 pm 271

The wildfire that has engulfed over 100,000 hectares of northern Alberta continues to burn out of control.

A Sunday update from the Government of Alberta states that the Chuckegg Creek Wildfire — which is threatening the town of High Level — has grown to over 105,000 hectares in size and is approximately three km southwest of the town.

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A number of communities throughout northern Alberta have fallen under heavy smoke warnings, as a change in wind has shifted the direction of the smoke northward.

High Level and the surrounding community of Mackenzie County have faced mandatory evacuations throughout last week, and now a voluntary evacuation is in place for Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement and areas north of High Level.

Those who have been evacuated may qualify for a $1,250 one-time financial support from the province if they meet the following criteria:

  • Living, working or vacationing in the affected area
  • Forced to leave due to an evacuation order
  • Paid for most of your costs to evacuate

The $1,250 payment is per adult, and an additional $500 will be given for each dependent child.

As of May 26, there were 400 wildland firefighters, 194 structural fighters and staff, 28 helicopters, eight air tankers, and 46 pieces of heavy equipment fighting the wildfire.

Around 4,300 people have been evacuated from the area so far, and a special air quality statement has been issued for most of Mackenzie County.

“Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk,” reads the statement.

“People with lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, can be particularly sensitive to air pollution. They will generally experience more serious health effects at lower levels. Pollution can aggravate their diseases, leading to increased medication use, doctor and emergency room visits, and hospital visits.”

Those who are having difficulty breathing are urged to find a cool and well-ventilated indoor space such as a library, shopping mall, or recreation centre that has air-conditioning available.

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