Some residents of the Dene Tha' First Nation in northern Alberta have been forced to leave their homes as a wildfire moves closer to the community.
A critical evacuation order was issued by the Alberta Emergency Management Agency late Friday night for the community of Chateh, Alta., formerly known as Assumption, 91 kilometres northwest of High Level, Alta.
Emergency officials said in the alert that a wildfire burning southeast of Chateh, near Basset Lake, is burning north toward the community.
"Everyone in Chateh must evacuate immediately," the alert said. "Gather medication, documents and supplies to be away from home for seven days or more."
It is the third time this summer that residents have had to flee from wildfires.
Wilfred Hooka-Nooza, chief of the Dene Tha' First Nation, told CBC News on Saturday that a fire earlier this spring near Long Lake, Alta., forced residents to evacuate from May to the early part of July.
He said it's stressful for residents who already had a difficult summer and have just begun the process of settling back in.
"Now they have to evacuate again," Hooka-Nooza said.
Hooka-Nooza said the First Nation's council declared a state of emergency for the community shortly after 10 p.m. on Friday. He said his team has spent the last 24 hours taking calls from members.
He's currently worried about chronically ill residents and is working on arranging support for them.
The nearby community of Meander River was placed on an evacuation alert Saturday morning. Residents have been told prepare in case of an evacuation.
Highway 58, which connects Chateh with High Level, was closed on Friday night, forcing residents to take an alternative route out of the community. Hooka-Nooza said the store and gas station in Meander River stayed open late to help residents secure fuel and other supplies.
Chateh resident Andrea Godin said having to evacuate wildfires multiple times over the years is unsettling. (Submitted by Andrea Godin)
Andrea Godin lives in Chateh with her husband, Terry, and six other family members. They left shortly after 11 p.m., about 30 minutes after the evacuation order was issued.
Most of her family are staying in High Level, but her daughter is staying with other relatives in Bushe River, Alta.
Godin said they got to High Level shortly after 2 a.m. and are staying at the High Level Sports Complex, which has been set up as an emergency shelter.
She said the trek to High Level was frightening.
"It was raining ashes, it got very dark and the colouring was just unreal," Godin said in a phone interview.
She said having to evacuate wildfires multiple times over the years is unsettling. Godin knows the routine well after spending almost three years as the Dene 'Tha First Nation's director of emergency services.
It never gets easier, she said.
"Emotionally and mentally, it's very draining on an individual, let alone a family. Because there are some families that have up to 15 people living in one household," she said.
Godin encouraged residents who haven't yet evacuated to take the advice of emergency officials and leave immediately before emergency routes are compromised.
Residents from Chateh who have been ordered to evacuate can seek shelter at the 400 Evacuation Camp, located at the intersection of 98 Street and 98 Avenue in High Level, Alta.
They can also stay at the High Level Sports Complex.