An out-of-control wildfire has forced the evacuation of thousands of people from Drayton Valley and Brazeau County in west-central Alberta.

“Bring important documents, medication, food, water and supplies for at least three days,” the Town of Drayton Valley told 7,200 residents on its Facebook page late Thursday. “Take pets with you.”

The City of Edmonton has set up a reception centre for evacuees at the Expo Centre in Edmonton. Evacuees have been told to register at Hall C.

The province will provide an update on the Alberta wildfire situation at 10:30 a.m. MT. You can watch it here live. 

An Alberta emergency alert issued for Brazeau County and Drayton Valley at 3:50 a.m. MT Friday said all residents in the area of Township Road 484 north to Township Road 494, and North Saskatchewan River west to Range Road 80 must evacuate immediately.

Residents were told to evacuate via Highway 22 north to Highway 624. Follow 624 to Tomahawk. Follow 624 east toward Stony Plain.

Fay Barnett and her stepson evacuated from their home in Poplar Ridge Mobile Home Park in Drayton Valley shortly after the alert was issued. 

“Hopefully we have houses to go to when we get back,” she said in an interview Friday morning.

She said she hopes the family can return home by Sunday.

An earlier emergency alert told people southwest of Brazeau Dam west of the Brazeau River to evacuate the area. The evacuation area is bounded by Elk River Road on the north, the Brazeau Reservoir on the east, just past Brazeau River on the south, and Range Road 145.

 Bart Guyon, reeve of Brazeau County, has been co-ordinating with the area’s fire chief to ensure county residents have the latest information and are able to evacuate swiftly. 

“It’s kind of like waking up in the middle of a nightmare,” Guyon said.

“I’m not on the front line, but we’ve got a lot of professionals that are pouring their hearts into what they do. And we’ve got everybody coming together to try to help.”

“Tactical evacuations are being done. This wildfire primarily affects oil and gas industry, but anyone within the area must evacuate,” the emergency alert said.

The evacuations in Brazeau County and Drayton Valley are the latest developments in a week that has seen a series of wildfires across central and northern Alberta.

Many are burning out of control in hot, dry and windy conditions.

On Thursday, a large out-of-control wildfire in the Fox Lake area of northern Alberta forced thousands of people from their homes. According to an update from Alberta Wildfire on Thursday afternoon, the wildfire in Fox Lake covers about 4,400 hectares.

In a video posted to Facebook on Thursday, Little Red River Cree Nation Chief Conroy Sewepagaham said about 3,700 residents have evacuated the community.

Smoke billows from a massive, angry red fire on the other side of a lake.
A large out-of-control wildfire is burning near the northern Alberta community of Fox Lake. (Submitted by Bridgette Loonskin)

In another video posted later Thursday, Sewepagaham said the fire has “grown significantly and continues to move westward.”

At a video update just after 8 p.m., Sewepagaham said as far as he can tell, all residents have been evacuated from the community but “unfortunately we are losing homes left and right and centre.” 

A 6 p.m. update from Alberta Wildfire said 20 households in the community, the RCMP station and the Northern Store have been lost due to fire.

According to an update posted by the Little Red River Cree Nation’s Facebook page, on Friday there will be approximately 34 Alberta Wildfire firefighters, four helicopters, two heavy helicopters, heavy equipment and air tankers battling the wildfire. 

Little Red River Cree Nation is made up of three Woodland Cree communities: Fox Lake, Garden River and John D’Or Prairie. The majority of the population lives in Fox Lake — east of High Level, about 600 kilometres north of Edmonton. 

A volunteer with a blue shirt that says 'staff' standing by a table of supplies.
The Town of High Level is preparing for 1,800 evacuees from the wildfire near Fox Lake. (Courtesy of the Town of High Level)

In High Level, town officials said in a news release they are preparing to host about 1,800 evacuees.

“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 Crystal McAteer.

“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.”

According to Alberta Wildfire, there are 76 active wildfires in the province.

Other evacuations

Hundreds of Albertans are on evacuation order due to wildfires burning throughout central Alberta.

A wildfire alert was issued for residents in Leduc County, south of Edmonton, near the village of Warburg.

The evacuation order is in effect for Range Road 41 east to Range Road 35 and from Township Road 494 north to Township Road 495. The affected area is about 6.5 kilometres north and eight kilometres west of Warburg. 

An emergency alert was issued for the community of Wildwood, west of Edmonton, on Thursday afternoon, but the evacuation zone was extended Thursday night at 8:30 p.m.

The area affected includes Pembina River west to Range Road 101, with a north border of Township Road 550 and south border to Township Road 520.

Included in the zone are the communities of Evansburg, Wildwood, Lobstick and Hansonville. A reception centre has been set up at the Edson Leisure Centre. Bus transportation to Edson is being provided from Tipple Park Museum and the Wildwood Community Hall.

In nearby Entwistle, an evacuation order was issued by Parkland County Thursday night. The order affects the area west of Range Road 65 to the Pembina River, north of Township Road 530 to Highway 16, including all residents of Entwistle.

Residents are being told to evacuate the area immediately and a reception centre is being set up at the Wabamun Jubilee Hall, at 5132 53rd Ave. in Wabamun.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services is helping Parkland County by sending two fully staffed fire trucks, a district chief and a mechanic to Entwistle “to provide structure protection in the town,” the City of Edmonton said in a news release.

There is also a wildfire prompting an evacuation southwest of Brazeau Dam west of the Brazeau River. The evacuation area is bounded by Elk River Road on the north, the Brazeau Reservoir on the east, just past Brazeau River on the south, and Rage Road 145. 

Lac Ste. Anne County issued an evacuation order Thursday for everyone between Range Road 60 and 64, from Township Road 554 to Highway 43.

There is a wildfire near Range Road 60 and Township Road 560, the county said. A reception area is open at the Sangudo Arena in Sangudo.

At 6:22 p.m. Thursday, an evacuation order was issued for Cold Lake First Nation for people south of Township Road 614 and up to Range Road 24. The fire is moving west toward Range Road 24, the alert says. One home has already been lost.

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