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'I'm sorry to bring the bad news': Mikisew Cree First Nation chief confirms cabins destroyed by wildfire


Several cabins in an Indigenous community were believed to have been burned down by a 14,500-hectare wildfire in northern Alberta on Thursday.

Mikisew Cree First Nation chief Billy-Joe Tuccaro shared the news on social media in the afternoon after taking an aerial tour of the fire and the community.

"We tried to get in there to get a good visual, but the smoke is heavy and thick in there, so we weren't able to get exactly a good visual of which cabins have–" he broke off suddenly, sighing and shaking his head.

"I'm sorry to bring the bad news."

The homes are part of the Devil's Gate reserve, which is part of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Alberta's far northeastern corner.

"I spoke to [Alberta Indigenous Relations] Minister Rick Wilson and as well federal Minister [of Indigenous Services] Patty Hajdu," Tuccaro continued. "She has confirmed [to] me, for any of the cabins that we did lose in the Devil's Gate area, she has 100 per cent committed with the Mikisew people to the rebuild."

The chief gave the update via live Facebook video Thursday afternoon, starting his address by saying the time and date of the recording.

"It's 4:42 – better be sure, here – it's Thursday," he said, appearing to double check the date on his phone. "It is Thursday. Thursday, June 1. It's kind of been chaotic last few days. Lost which day we were at, exactly."

The out-of-control near the Fort Chipewyan communities, labelled MWF025 by Alberta Wildfire, has grown aggressively from the mere 300 hectares it was on Sunday.

Mikisew Cree First Nation, Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation were evacuated over Tuesday night and Wednesday.

The Allison Bay reserve on Mikisew Cree First Nation has been one of the communities' leaders' top priorities, as it is closest to the fire boundary – just six kilometres, Tuccaro said on Thursday.

Tuccaro said Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation chief Allan Adam and Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation president Kendrick Cardinal were also on the call with Wilson and Hajdu and participated in a meeting with the military.

The leaders are asking for Fort Petroleum, the power plant and Allison Bay to continue to be prioritized. According to Tuccaro, they also asked for the military to send 70 to 100 soldiers by Saturday, generators, medical services, and power tools for community members who have stayed to help with the firefight.

That group numbers between 60 and 70, Tuccaro said.

On Thursday, the military delivered five fire engines and dozers were on their way.

About 60 Alberta Wildfire firefighters are also deployed in the area.

"Things are picking up in regards to activity in the community. We do have a lot of resources now," Tucarro said.

"We don't know how long we're going to be doing this. But I will guarantee you, as the leaders of the community, we vouch today: We will not leave. We are refusing to leave and we will stay here and fight."

In his own live update on Facebook, Adam drove around Fort Chipewyan showing viewers the smoke and emergency resources in the community. 

"It's been a very emotional few days here and we're doing our best. That's all we can do. We're at Mother Nature's hands," the chief said, tears in his eyes.

"We'll do everything we can to protect our community. We want you back home and make sure you guys come home to your homes. I'm a human being like everybody else and I get emotional, too."

As of Friday afternoon, there were 56 wildfires in Alberta, 15 of which were out of control. Top Stories

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