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Update 3: Northwest Alberta wildfire (May 23 at 4:00 p.m.)

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10 minute read

May 23, 2019 

Thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday and Friday with no precipitation. States of local emergency remain in effect, with residents under a mandatory evacuation order.

Current situation

  • The Chuckegg Creek Wildfire is burning approximately three kilometres south of the Town of High Level in Mackenzie County.
  • This out-of-control wildfire is almost 92,000 hectares.
  • Alberta Wildfire, Alberta Emergency Management Agency and local authorities are cooperating in the response.
  • Albertans should be prepared to be away from home longer than initially planned. Evacuees are asked to report to reception centres in Peace River, High Prairie, Grande Prairie, Slave Lake, Fort Vermilion and Hay River.
  • Firefighters are focusing efforts on containing the wildfire outside High Level. Yesterday, a break in conditions allowed a controlled burn between the wildfire and the town to consume materials that could have become fuel for the wildfire.
  • Peace River is reporting reduced visibility due to the smoke which is expected to stay until tomorrow.
  • Resources on the ground include about 143 wildland firefighters, 154 structural fighters and staff on the ground, supported by 28 helicopters, air tankers, 10 structural protection units and heavy machinery.
  • Continuing dry and windy conditions in most of Alberta have increased the danger of forest fires. Fire bans and off-highway vehicle restrictions are now in place for central and northern areas of the province.
  • Approximately 5,000 people have been evacuated from High Level and the neighbouring communities.
  • Mandatory evacuation orders are in place for the Town of High Level and parts of Mackenzie County south of High Level.
  • Dene Tha’ First Nation declared an evacuation order for Bushe River, Meander River and Chateh.
  • A voluntary evacuation is in place for Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement and areas north of High Level.
  • Alberta Health Services evacuated 15 patients from the Manning Community Health Centre due to smoke from the wildfires.
  • The emergency department at Manning Community Health Centre remains open.
  • Power, wireless services and gas have been restored to the Town of High Level, Mackenzie County and the Dene Tha’ First Nation.
  • Detailed information is available on emergency.alberta.ca, which is updated frequently.

Reception centres

  • Reception centres are open at:
    • Slave Lake Legacy Centre (400 6 Avenue)
    • High Prairie Sports Palace (5409 49 Street)
    • Grande Prairie Regional College (10726 106 Avenue)
    • Peace River Misery Mountain Ski Hill (10408 89 Street)
    • La Crete Heritage Centre (25411 Township Road 1060, south of La Crete)
    • Fort Vermilion Community Cultural Complex (5001 44 Avenue)
    • Hay River Dene Wellness Centre
  • Residents are asked to please check in with a reception centre, even if they are staying with family or friends, or finding alternate accommodations.

Highway closures

  • Highway 35 remains closed between five kilometres and 30 kilometres south of High Level. Highway 697 and the La Crete Ferry is identified as a detour. La Crete Ferry is operational with wait times of approximately one hour.
  • Highway 58 from High Level to approximately 70 kilometres from the junction with Range Road 45A remains closed.

Insurance information

  • Evacuated residents should retain all their receipts for food purchases, accommodation and other related expenses to provide to their insurer for possible reimbursement.
  • Most home and tenant’s insurance policies provide reasonable coverage for living expenses during an evacuation. Contact your insurance company for details.
  • Albertans who cannot remember or reach their insurance provider, can contact the Insurance Bureau of Canada at 1-844-227-5422 or by email at [email protected]. Information to understand your fire insurance coverage is online at ibc.ca/ab/disaster/alberta-wildfire.

Justice and legal matters

  • High Level Court is closed. Call the Peace River Court at 780-624-6256 for inquiries on High Level Court matters scheduled for this week and next. All scheduled Fort Vermilion matters will be heard in Peace River. Call the Peace River Court at 780-624-6256 if you’re unable to register your name and phone number. Matters will be held by phone if necessary.
  • In many cases, tickets can be paid online. For any other inquiries requiring direction from the court about Peace River and Fort Vermilion court matters, call the Peace River Court at 780-624-6256.
  • If you have an appointment with a probation officer in an evacuated area, report to the community corrections office nearest you. If you do not know where the nearest one is, call 780-427-3109 (to call toll free, first dial 310-0000).
  • If you are an intermittent server in an evacuated area, call the Peace River Correctional Centre at 780-624-5480 (to call toll free, first dial 310-0000) for direction.

Air quality

Health

  • Mental health support is available by calling Alberta’s 24-hour Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.

Post-secondary

  • Apprentices or journeypersons from the High Level area who have questions should call the Apprenticeship and Industry Training Information line at 1-800-248-4823, Monday through Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or visit tradesecrets.gov.ab.ca.
  • Post-secondary students with questions about Alberta student loans can call 1-855-606-2096, or toll free in North America at 1-855-606-2096 Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Pets and livestock

  • Residents who may have left their pets at home can call 780-926-2201. Volunteers can check on your pets.
  • Mackenzie County has stock trailers to assist with livestock transport. Visit highlevel.ca for more information

Donations and volunteers

Canada Post

  • Canada Post has suspended mail delivery services in the communities of High Level, Meander Creek, Chateh, Rainbow Lake, Zama City, Fort Vermilion, Manning and La Crete.
  • Mail will be held at the Edmonton depot until mail service resumes.
  • Check the Canada Post website for updates.

Income Support, Alberta Supports and AISH

  • Residents receiving benefits from the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) or the Income Support program by cheque rather than electronic deposit, and who are affected by the wildfire in High Level, can visit their nearest Alberta Supports Centres to pick up their cheque.
  • If you are in La Crete, you can pick up your cheque at the local reception centre. If you receive your benefits via direct deposit, your payment will be deposited as usual.
  • For information on child intervention and child care, residents may contact 1-800-638-0715.
  • If persons with developmental disabilities, their families or contracted service providers need human, financial, or in-kind assistance to connect with loved ones, find accommodations or provide assistance to individuals receiving PDD supports, please contact the nearest Alberta Supports Centre for assistance. You can find a list of Alberta Supports Centres online or you can call the Alberta Supports contact Centre at 1-800-232-7215 provincewide between 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m., Monday to Friday. 
  • For additional information on social benefits, affected individuals can contact Alberta Supports or call 1-877-644-9992, Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Health card

  • To get a replacement Health Care Insurance Card at no cost, you can contact 780-427-1432 or toll free at 310-0000 and then 780-427-1432 when prompted. Your Alberta Personal Health Card can be mailed to a temporary address.  

Other information

  • Residents driving through the area should carry enough fuel as there may be shortages.

Public information

  • You can call 310-4455, open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for wildfire-related information.

Related information

President Todayville Inc., Honorary Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Director Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) musician, photographer, former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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Crime

Memphis braces for release of video in Tyre Nichols’ arrest

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By Adrian Sainz in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Memphis and the nation on Friday awaited the release of a police video depicting five officers viciously beating Tyre Nichols, a Black man whose death prompted murder charges against the cops and outrage at the country’s latest instance of police brutality.

The officers were charged Thursday with murder and other crimes in the killing of Nichols, a motorist who died three days after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told a news conference that although the officers each played different rolesin the killing, “they are all responsible.”

The officers, who are all Black, each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Nichols’ family members and their lawyers said the footage shows officers savagely beating the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes in an assault that the legal team likened to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King. His family urged supporters to protest peacefully.

Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis said she expected protests after the release of video showing officers’ actions, which she described as “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” but she also urged the community to remain peaceful.

“I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand actions and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process,” she said. “None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”

Davis said Friday that her department has been unable to substantiate the reckless driving allegation that prompted the stop.

“As far as I know today, I do believe that the stop itself was very questionable,” she told Good Morning America.

Video of the Jan. 7 traffic stop will be released to the public sometime Friday evening, Mulroy said, noting that local and state investigators wanted to complete as many interviews as possible before releasing it.

Davis told GMA that the decision to release the video on Friday evening rather than earlier in the day had been made after consulting with other local leaders, who believe it’s best to do it when schools are out and people are home from work.

As a precaution, Memphis area schools canceled all after-class activities and postponed a school event scheduled for Saturday morning.

Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told The Associated Press by phone that he and his wife, RowVaughn Wells, who is Nichols’ mother, discussed the second-degree murder charges and are “fine with it.” They had sought first-degree murder charges.

“There’s other charges, so I’m all right with that,” he said.

The Wellses were joined by several dozen supporters on a cold Thursday night for a candlelight vigil and prayer service at a Memphis skate park. Nichols, who had a 4-year-old son, was an avid skateboarder.

RowVaughn Wells, who said her family is “grief-stricken,” warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video set to be released Friday, but like Davis, pleaded for peaceful protests.

“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”

Activists and clergy led the group in prayer and a drummer played a steady rhythm to lead into the spoken part of the vigil. Afterward, skaters rode their boards as the Wellses watched.

Court records showed that all five former officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — were taken into custody.

Martin’s lawyer, William Massey, confirmed that his client had turned himself in. He and Mills’ lawyer, Blake Ballin, said their clients would plead not guilty. Lawyers for Smith, Bean and Haley could not be reached.

“No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die,” Massey said.

Both lawyers said they had not seen the video.

“We are in the dark about many things, just like the general public is,” Ballin said.

Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.

The attorneys for Nichols’ family, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, issued a statement saying that Nichols “lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop.”

At the White House, President Joe Biden said the Nichols family and the city of Memphis deserve “a swift, full and transparent investigation.”

“Public trust is the foundation of public safety, and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken,” Biden said in a statement.

Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. In addition, she said “a complete and independent review” will be conducted of the department’s specialized units, without providing further details.

Two fire department workers were also removed from duty over the Nichols’ arrest.

As state and federal investigations continue, Davis promised the police department’s “full and complete cooperation” to determine what contributed to Nichols’ Jan. 10 death.

Crump said the video showed that Nichols was shocked, pepper-sprayed and restrained when he was pulled over near his home. He was returning home from a suburban park where he had taken photos of the sunset.

Police have said Nichols was stopped for reckless driving and at some point fled from the scene.

Relatives have accused the police of causing Nichols to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said Nichols experienced a medical emergency.

One of the officers, Haley, was accused previously of using excessive force. He was named as a defendant in a 2016 federal civil rights lawsuit while employed by the Shelby County Division of Corrections.

The claims were ultimately dismissed after a judge ruled that Sledge had failed to file a grievance against the officers within 30 days of the incident.

___

Associated Press reporters Aaron Morrison in New York, Travis Loller in Nashville and Rebecca Reynolds in Lexington, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

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Health

Focus on retaining nurses before recruiting nurses from other provinces: association

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By Jacob Serebrin in Montreal

Efforts to lure nurses from other provinces are underway in several parts of the country, but the head of a national nurses association says the poaching won’t solve anything unless working conditions are improved.

“We know that nurses are facing inadequate working conditions, and that is the main reason many are leaving their jobs,” Sylvain Brousseau, the president of the Canadian Nurses Association, said in an interview Thursday. “If working conditions and retention are not the focus, the new nurses recruited from other provinces may find themselves wanting to leave their jobs.”

This week, Horizon Health Network, one of New Brunswick’s two health authorities, held three-day recruiting events in Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Its pitch to attract 120 nurses to the province includes the promise of an appealing life near the ocean with financial incentives of up to $20,000.

A spokesperson said recruiting from outside of New Brunswick isn’t new, and that it’s also hiring nurses through partnerships with universities in Maine and in India, as well as taking steps to retain workers. The province’s other regional health authority, Vitalité Health Network, says it will be attending several career fairs in Quebec in the coming weeks.

Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will start automatically recognizing the credentials of health-care workers registered in other provinces and territories. “A doctor from British Columbia or a nurse from Quebec who wants to come and work in Ontario shouldn’t face barriers or bureaucratic delays to start providing care,” Ford told a Jan. 19 news conference.

Newfoundland and Labrador has introduced incentives in an effort to lure home health-care workers with connections to the province, while Quebec said it’s looking to recruit internationally.

“All provinces in Canada face the same challenge of a shortage of labour in their health-care systems,” the office of Health Minister Christian Dubé said in a statement. “It’s in everyone’s interest to recruit people internationally. Meanwhile, we continue to work so that our network becomes an employer of choice and to improve working conditions.”

Brousseau said nurses need better pay, more support staff — so they can focus on caring for patients — and responsibility for fewer patients.

“Thirty years ago on surgery, I had six patients during the day, seven to eight on the evening shift and 12 on night shift, and now it’s 15 during the day in surgery in some places, or 10. This is too much,” he said.

Brosseau said he’d also like to see an end to practices like mandatory overtime, which remains common in Quebec, and nurses being pressured to work ostensibly optional overtime shifts.

He said the nurses association isn’t opposed to nurses going to another province to work and that it has been calling for a reduction of barriers between provinces — but that won’t fix the problems.

“It’s not by going to poach nurses from one province to (another) that you will solve the health-care system crisis that we are going through right now,” he said. “It’s by giving them better working conditions and a better health-care environment.”

Ivy Lynn Bourgeault, a University of Ottawa professor and director of the Canadian Health Workforce Network, said the efforts to recruit nurses across provincial boundaries are a symptom of a wider problem.

While it’s not the first time Canadian health-care systems have looked to other parts of the country for staff, the shortage of nurses and other health-care workers is worse than before.

“I think what is new is the extent of the problem and that every province is in these circumstances, and this is not just a Canadian problem. This is happening across the world,” she said in an interview Thursday.

Solving Canada’s nursing shortage needs to start with retention, she argues; recruitment alone can’t solve it. “It’s focusing on one part of the challenge, of bringing more in, and we’re not looking at all of those who are leaving,” she said. “It’s not a long-term strategy.”

Bourgeault said governments need better data for workforce planning and that federal agencies, such as the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada, could be used to give provinces better tools.

Mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios would also help retain nurses, she said, but they could in the short term lead to longer wait times.

“I think that as a society, we need to have a crucial conversation about how we manage this crisis going forward,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.

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