Focus on Slave Lake

It’s virtually unimaginable to comprehend how the residents of Slave Lake must be feeling these days. Watching everything you have worked so hard for over the years be destroyed by fire must be one of the most heart-breaking and helpless situations a person could ever endure.

Residents were forced to abandon their homes and leave their businesses behind as out of control fires swept near and through the community this past weekend. The speed at which it happened was also frightening.

And although it’s early in the season, fires are already becoming more of a threat across the province.

As of press time, there were 100 wildfires in Alberta, 23 of which are listed as out of control. These active wildfires have burned about 105,000 hectares of land.

In the Lesser Slave Lake area alone, 15 wildfires are burning out of control. The province has also deployed about 1,000 firefighters, including 120 who arrived Monday from B.C.

To help combat the fires, 124 helicopters, 20 air tankers and scores of heavy ground-based machines have also been sent out. National counterparts are also making their way to the sites.

Approximately 80 firefighters from Ontario were set to arrive Tuesday followed by 200 additional firefighters from B.C. today.

It’s heartening to see people gathering together, on several levels, to help those affected by this disaster. Many have also opened up their homes to allow residents from the fire-ravaged town to settle for the time being. A number of shelters have also been opened in neighbouring communities and are full of residents waiting to see what, if anything, they are returning home to.

And on a local level, we see many businesses beginning to collect everything from clothes to toiletries, cash and pet food for those affected.

It’s truly amazing, in a time of tragedy, to see total strangers opening their hearts and lending a helping hand. We can be proud of the community response, and encourage people to continue to give to these families who have lost virtually everything. There is no doubt the rebuilding of Slave Lake will take an extended amount of time and the demand for support certainly isn’t going to diminish.

Meanwhile, anyone can help by making a donation to the Red Cross as well. Folks can call toll-free to 310-4455 to access current information about the wildfire situation such as Red Cross information, highway closures, and web sites to visit for more information.

The Red Cross Central Registration Inquiry Bureau is 1-800-565-4483. To donate, call 1-800-418-1111 or visit www.redcross.ca.

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