Focus still on Slave Lake

One year after the devastating fire that destroyed much of Slave Lake, many residents are still struggling to get their lives back.

According to reports, only about 21 homes have been rebuilt. Many are waiting for builders to begin, as building permits have also been issued for about 200 more.

But many are still living in temporary housing as RCMP continue to investigate the blaze which ultimately cost $700 million in damages.

It’s virtually unimaginable to comprehend how the residents of Slave Lake must be still 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 on May 15, 2011.

The speed at which it happened was also frightening.

And although it’s early in the season, the dry conditions are already becoming more of a threat across the province. As of Tuesday, there were three wildfires burning out of control in northern Alberta. A fire ban for all forested provincial lands has been imposed as well.

The ban runs from Waterton Lakes National Park to north of Manning and east to north of Fort McMurray. The fire ban is effective immediately and until further notice.

The fire ban prohibits the lighting of outdoor fires, fireworks and the use of portable campfires. In addition, all outdoor fires currently burning, whether set under the authority of a fire permit or not, must be extinguished. All fire permits issued under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act are suspended in the ban area.

Meanwhile, over the last year, it’s been heartening to see people gathering together, on several levels, to help those affected by this disaster.

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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