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Posted on: May 5, 2023

The Town of High Level Welcomes Hundreds of Wildfire Evacuees

HL Evacuation Arena 02More frequent emergencies showcase the town’s commitment to serving their neighbours

High Level, Alberta – On Wednesday, May 3, 2023, the Town of High Level began preparing to host up to 1,800 individuals forced to evacuate from neighbouring communities, primarily Fox Lake, due to wildfire risks. Evacuated Albertans are being supported at John D’or Prairie and High Level with assistance from local community groups and first responders. At this time, it is unclear how long evacuees will be displaced, but High Level remains committed to serving their neighbours with shelter, food, and friendship during this challenging time.

The wildfire that has displaced these people is having a devastating effect on the community of Fox Lake. The fire is in the community and has damaged homes and infrastructure. Due to its location on the south bank of the Peace River, the community’s residents have been transported by boat to the neighbouring community of John D’or Prairie, where some have been housed, with the rest placed on buses and transported the 130 kilometres to High Level.

HL Evacuation Arena 01“As a primary destination for Albertans across Northwest Alberta, the Town of High Level and its residents are proud to continue to support our neighbours during their time of need,” said Mayor McAteer of High Level. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen these types of emergency situations occur more regularly over the past few years. We recognize how stressful it can be for those that need to leave their homes behind to head to safety. We hope to be their safe haven and always work to make evacuees as comfortable as possible.”

The Town of High Level often welcomes evacuees across Northwest Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Each year, High Level serves as the central evacuation hub for an area the size of New Brunswick. Existing infrastructure in the town allows them to support evacuees, but the more frequent occurrence of emergency events like wildfires and floods is placing an increased strain on community infrastructure.

That’s why the Town of High Level has requested support from both the federal and provincial governments to work with the town to build a purpose-built evacuation centre and resiliency hub. This infrastructure is designed to support evacuees during some of the most stressful times of their lives and provide critically important services to the community.

“Our investment request to build a new evacuation centre isn’t about our ability to help, but the chance to do it better,” explained Mayor McAteer. “Right now, evacuees are hosted in infrastructure not designed for these types of emergencies. Our proposal that’s before government is focused on preparing for the future, and includes infrastructure with centralized facilities, services, and equipment to properly house and support over 2,000 evacuees at once.” 

As the Town of High Level welcomes people from across the region, it’s ready and committed to helping neighbours in need. With their immediate focus on serving their region and evacuees, High Level looks forward to post-election discussions with provincial and federal governments about their submitted proposal to build a critically important facility designed to better support future emergencies across the entire region.

HL Evacuation Arena 04

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