Many Central Albertans are left wondering what they can do to help after tragedy has struck a northern Alberta town.
On Sunday evening flames tore through the town of Slave Lake. Wildfires in the area quickly spread as winds upwards of 80 kms/h blew and pushed the flames into the town. Hundreds of homes and structures including the municipality’s hospital and town hall were destroyed.
Nearly all 7,000 residents of Slave Lake have been evacuated from the area and many are left wondering if they will have a home to return to. Provincial officials have said the fire has destroyed 40% of the town. No deaths or injuries have been reported due to the fire.
The town remains under an evacuation order.
Hundreds of firefighters are currently battling the blaze including two firemedics from Red Deer.
The firefighting effort includes men and women on the ground, aircraft including helicopters and heavy equipment.
The local branch of the Canadian Red Cross is currently accepting cash donations at this time.
“The donations have started to come in,” said Rob Rolston, coordinator of program and support services for the Canadian Red Cross in Red Deer. “We’re also collecting donations through our web site and toll free phone number.”
He added the local office is also putting people in touch with those who have been affected by the fires.
In addition, Red Deer City council is also encouraging citizens to donate to the Canadian Red Cross.
Councillor Paul Harris introduced a motion during Monday’s meeting in hopes that Red Deerians will open their wallets and donate financially to the agency.
At a press conference held yesterday in Edmonton, officials said it remains unknown when residents of the town can return.
“We will have to coordinate some sort of orderly return of the residents but we don’t know when that will happen,” said Colin Lloyd, executive director of operations with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
“The town continues to work extremely hard to see that the fires that have been suppressed remain in that state. We are in recovery phase in Slave Lake and we’re working hard to connect gas, water and phone lines. Our priority right now is the safety of the public, protecting their property and the environment and of course the economy.”
In Slave Lake, the RCMP have added more human and equipment resources in response to the ongoing fire situation. The resources presently in the Slave Lake area has been increased to about 100 RCMP members and Alberta Sheriffs in order to provide 24-hour patrols and security within the townsite and surrounding area, as well as provide perimeter control on the highways leading into the community.
These additional resources, which include specialist as well as general duty members have come from detachments throughout the province to augment the RCMP members who are posted to Slave Lake.
As the RCMP provide provincial policing to Alberta there is a depth of resources available to draw upon in time of emergency such as this event.
The RCMP have also provided additional resources to other detachments within the province to assist if other fire situations have caused evacuations or increased workloads.
Seven RCMP members have had their residences and personal possessions destroyed by this fire and these members are receiving support in order to re-establish their personal lives.
As of yesterday, there were 100 wildfires in the province of Alberta, 23 of which were out of control. These wildfires have burned about 105,000 hectares of land.
About 1,000 firefighters are working on the fires in the province.
To donate to the Canadian Red Cross call 1-800-418-1111 or visit their web site at www.redcross.ca. Also stop by their office in Red Deer at 5301 43 St.
Other local businesses are also accepting donations of clothes and toiletries including Growing Like A Weed ( 5202 – 54 Ave. in Red Deer), Jo Dumont Fitness ( #1, 7819 50 Ave. in Red Deer) and Trilliant Real Estate Group (#6, 40 Hewlett Park in Sylvan Lake).
Also, East Hill Dog and Cat Hospital (#420, 3020-22 St. in Red Deer) is accepting donations of pet food, kitty litter, toys and leashes to help animals who were displaced in the Slave Lake fire.