'It's beautiful to be home': Wildfire evacuees return to Wabasca-Desmarais
Wabasca’s volunteer fire service welcomed back a steady stream of friends and neighbours as wildfire evacuees were allowed to return to Wabasca-Desmarais and Bighorn Cree Nation Wednesday.
Even before the official greeting, a "welcome back" homemade sign outside Robert Davis Jackson's acreage showed how much this day was awaited by so many.
Jackson told CTV News Edmonton he just wanted his life back to normal, and that he was surprised how green the trees and grass were compared to what he saw of the tinder dry forest when he and about 3,500 others were forced to evacuate by wildfires on May 29.
“It's beautiful to be home, I got lots of grass to cut.”
Charlie Ghostkeeper walked into his home for the first time since his family was evacuated to Calling Lake. He ensured the freezer was still on and then smiled.
“It’s good to be back, definitely.”
He showed CTV News Edmonton the half-full pot of coffee his wife turned off moments before fleeing flames that were just a few kilometres away.
“It wasn’t very far west of us here. I think the last map we saw was 3.9.”
The youngest member of Charlie’s family, 14-year-old Grace Houle, ran from room to room in the house, a stream of giggles and tears as she confirmed everything was pretty much as they left it.
“There’s no word to put on it. No word to describe how happy I am," she said.
As trucks and campers, trailers and cars stuffed with people continued to enter Wabasca throughout the day, a helicopter flew overhead with a dragline underneath. Dark smoke could be seen to the north and Wildfire Information Officer Caroline Charbonneau said that while today’s return is a good story, continued vigilance is needed.
“We’re asking residents to be ready for the possibility of evacuation at a moment’s notice.”
The standby order, at least for now, is to be ready to leave again, if needed, within eight hours.