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'We’ll rebuild': 16 homes destroyed by fire at Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement
Without a favourable forecast, some northern Albertans are trusting other forces to guide them through what has become two weeks of extreme wildfire conditions.
“My faith is stronger than ever. Right now, I’m getting a testimony, that’s what I believe in. It’s a testimony of life,” George Pudgin Wanuch told CTV News.
“My family’s getting stronger from this. Everything’s is in God’s hand.”
Officials estimated 16 homes in the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement were destroyed on Wednesday and Thursday, and said dozens of others remain in danger as the Chuckegg Fire burns a short distance away.
Before and after photos show entire structures burned to the ground.
Wanuch was among the residents who fled Paddle Prairie on Thursday—and just in time, as two of his family’s properties were destroyed in the fire. The family is currently staying at a hotel in Grand Prairie.
Wanuch told CTV News there is “nothing left.”
His wife and three daughters left the community last week, but Wanuch stayed behind to volunteer. That put him at ground zero when the conditions worsened on Thursday.
“Never seen anything like it. The fire, it was just creating its own storm,” he recalled.
“Daylight on one side, and black inside the fire. Clouds, twisting, forming all kinds—purple, while, red, black.”
He said it was like being in a “different world.”
The Chuckegg Fire was measured at over 237,000 hectares at last count, registering as half the size of the Fort McMurray wildfire and one of Alberta’s largest ever.
But Wanuch has faith Paddle Prairie will be intact when the smoke clears.
“Everything’s going to be okay. We’re gonna get stronger with this,” he said.
Wanuch and his family are just a handful of more than 10,000 Alberta residents who have been evacuated due to wildfire threat. The number of evacuees nearly doubled on Thursday, from about 5,500.
It is unknown when those in the High Level area will be able to return to their communities. Town officials first estimated the evacuation would be over by the weekend, but some residents believe the dates will be pushed back again.
There are currently nine wildfires burning out of control in the province.
With files from Timm Bruch