Wildfire destroys Slave Lake Government Centre and much of the town

Slave Lake town hall

Updated at 10:56 a.m., May 17, 2011


Slave lake burned homes
Slave lake burned homes. CTV

As Wildfire Today reported on Monday, a wildfire burned into the northern Alberta community of Slave Lake on Sunday, destroying 30 to 40 percent of the structures in the town according to the Mayor and Province authorities. The Province of Alberta provided an update on their Facebook page Tuesday morning:

The wildfire that has burned into the town of Slave Lake has continued to move towards the east side of the lake. It has reached the golf course on the north and Highway 2 on the south side of the lake. Last night the fire didn’t expand significantly. For more information about the fire within town limits, please visit: http://slavelake.ca/

More photos, maps, and details, including information about how to help the victims are in Monday’s article, but today we will focus on the Government Centre and Library which was completely destroyed in the fire.

On July 29, 2010 the City of Slave Lake welcomed residents to the grand opening of their new Government Centre and Library.

Slave Lake Goverment Centre
Slave Lake Goverment Centre and Library, July, 2010

Previously, Slave Lake’s outdated government offices were scattered around the community, but the new facility brought them all together in one outstanding, innovative building that was a combination of renovated space and new construction. It streamlined the delivery of public services in Slave Lake and provided a central place where citizens could meet, interact and conduct daily business in one stop.

The project involved acquiring and renovating space from an existing mall and constructing new space. The Town of Slave Lake owned the new building and leased office space to several Province of Alberta government offices. The provincial area, about 75% of the facility, included office space for 13 government departments and a courthouse with two courtrooms. The Municipal area occupied the remaining 25%, and included office and meeting space, the council chamber, and the municipal library.

The new construction was comprised of glulam columns beams supporting wood roof decking, with wood-frame exterior walls. Much of the wood used throughout the building was obtained from a deconstructed church in Edmonton. Seating in a courtroom was provided by pews salvaged from a church in Edmonton.

Slave Lake town hall
Slave Lake town hall. Photo, Steve Nagy Photography
Slave Lake library
The library in the new government centre, Steve Nagy Photography

The building was designed by architect Manasc Issac to reduce energy consumption 45% below the standards of the Model National Energy Code for Buildings.

When it opened, the town posted this on its web site:

“The new Slave Lake Government Center and Library is a powerful example of what can be accomplished when communities and government work together,” said Pearl Calahasen, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake. “This facility is going to serve the people of Slave Lake and the surrounding area very well for many years to come.”

Construction began in February 2008 and was completed in December 2009 at a cost of $35.8 million. The Town of Slave Lake funded the project and will recover 80 per cent from the Alberta government through a 20-year lease, an estimated total of $28.8 million.

Unfortunately the new and renovated building was not able to withstand the fire that burned into the community on Sunday. Firefighters, confronted with perhaps hundreds of burning structures, and probably inadequate water supplies considering the scope of the tragedy, were not able to protect and save the facility. Less than a year after the grand opening, it was destroyed.

Slave Lake town hall burning

Slave Lake Town Hall after fire

Slave Lake town hall, burned

The video below shows firefighters on the roof of the building after it has partially burned down. They appear to be waiting for water in their hose, and when it arrives, the pressure is less than ideal. The very last frame reveals that part of the building is already destroyed.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.