Slave Lake still rebuilding after blaze
Published Monday, May 14, 2012 5:59PM MDT
Tuesday marks the one year anniversary of the Slave Lake fires that devastated the northern Alberta Community and displaced hundreds of residents.
Nearly 400 homes and businesses were reduced to ash and rubble in May 2011 when fierce winds whipped a wildfire through the town with little warning.
Most residents had just minutes to flee and other than scrapes and minor burns, no one was injured.
As many as 2,000 people were left homeless and the new government building, library, two churches and the radio station were also lost.
About 189 temporary mobile homes were erected to house the displaced families.
Albertans dug in their heels and amassed truckloads of clothing, furniture and other goods to give to those who lost everything.
There is a strong connection here in Calgary to the fires that devastated the town last year.
Over 200 Calgary firefighters helped to control and extinguish the blaze.
"I will never forget the looks in the eyes of those firefighters who looked like they had just been beat," said CFD Deputy Chief Len MacCharles.
MacCharles went to the area and was asked to take charge as incident commander of hundreds of firefighters from 25 different departments.
"It looked like a nuclear weapon had gone off in that town," said Deputy Fire Chief MacCharles. "There was blocks of flattened homes, homes that didn't exist anymore. Smouldering and burning. Some described it as looking like a moonscape."
Canadian Red Cross Provincial Director Steve Armstrong spent months in Slave Lake coordinating efforts to help people impacted by the blaze.
Armstrong says the Canadian Red Cross had volunteers from all over Canada helping out.
He says many people from Slave Lake still need emotional help to deal with anger and depression.
"Some people are angry, some people are upset, some people feel depressed, and how do we service that? So we actually launched a very comprehensive mental health program . One of the first times a large program like that has been delivered by the Canadian Red Cross within Canada," said Armstrong
Armstrong says the Red Cross will keep a presence in Slave Lake for years to come to help people rebuild their lives and emotionally heal.