Province promises $50M to help evacuees
The remains of cars at a dealership in Slave Lake, Alta., on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. A wildfire swept through the town of 7,000 destroying upwards of 40 per cent of the buildings. (THE CANADIAN PRESS\Ian Jackson
Published Wednesday, May 18, 2011 6:33PM MDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 2:47AM MDT
The premier announced Wednesday that the province has approved an initial allocation of $50 million that will be put towards immediate help for the evacuees as well as rebuilding costs for the Town of Slave and surrounding communities.
"The unprecedented wildfire disaster in Slave Lake and the surrounding area has touched all Albertans," said Premier Ed Stelmach. "This funding is an important first step on the road to rebuilding the community."
Stelmach says the funding will first focus on immediate housing, income support and other needs of the evacuated residents.
Government officials will be working with evacuees to assess their needs and start the process of rebuilding the community.
Stelmach says the funds will start to flow by the end of the week.
"As individual residents will have specific needs and requirements, it is important that we have an accurate list of evacuees. So, is crucial that residents who have evacuated from Slave Lake and surrounding communities register with the Red Cross at 1-800-565-4483."
The battle to control massive wildfires near Slave Lake continues Wednesday for the thousands of firefighters on scene.
The province has deployed 1,000 firefighters, 85 firefighters are from Ontario and 200 additional firefighters from British Columbia have arrived to assist in the fire-fight.
Crews from Calgary say the blazes are beyond anything they have seen before, referring to the site as a "war zone".
As of Wednesday morning, a massive blaze in the Slave Lake area has grown to 2,000 hectares.
A wildfire along south shore of Lesser Slave Lake is out of control and has burned 15,000 hectares.
And about 23 kilometres south of Loon Lake, a wildfire has burned 30,000 hectares of land.
In total, there are 87 fires burning across the province, with 23 that are out of control and 14 are being held.
Officials say the active wildfires have burned approximately 191,000 hectares of land.
Late Wednesday afternoon, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for all non-essential service residents in the hamlet of Red Earth Creek.
A wildfire nearly eight kilometres northeast of Red Earth Creek is out of control and has burned approximately 5,000 hectares.
Residents are being asked to leave the community via Highway 986 immediately to Peace Rover Reception Centre at Misery Mountain Ski Hill.
Two highways in the Slave Lake area are now open to traffic, but there is still no access to services in the Town of Slave Lake.
Residents returning to homes outside of the town on these two highways must obtain all supplies and services needed before beginning their trip, the province says.
The highways include the Old Smith Highway from Smith to Tollenaar Bridge and Highway 754, west of Highway 88 to Marten Beach. Since Highway 88 to Slave Lake remains closed, residents returning home are being asked to get supplies in Wabasca.
The province says a mandatory evacuation order remains in place for the Town of Slave Lake.
Fire crews in Slave Lake are still working to battle flare-ups and make sure embers from burned homes don't spread to neighbouring homes.
Power has been restored to part of the town, but there is still no water.With files from Sean Amato