Slave Lake begins recovery from devastating wildfire

Slave Lake Mayor and Premier
Slave Lake Mayor and Premier
Premier tours town devastated by wildfire. From left Mayor of Slave Lake Karina Pillay-Kinnee, Premier Ed Stelmach, Reeve of Municipal District of Lesser Slave River Denny Garratt, and Municipal Affairs Minister Goudreau on site in the south-east corner of Slave Lake. May 17, 2011. (Caption is from flickr.) Photo: Government of Alberta.

Thanks in part to more moderate weather, the fires that burned hundreds of homes in the northern Alberta town of Slave Lake have slowed, but the community is still under an evacuation order.

The Mayor of Slave Lake, Karina Pillay-Kinnee, now in her third term, is the daughter of Pally Pillay, who was the mayor of the town during the 1980s. Here is an excerpt from a statement she made May 17 during a press conference, after she thanked the first responders, the Government of Alberta, and the people who donated goods and services:

• There are hundreds of homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed by the fire.

• In addition to our fire service, there is a heavy police presence in the community to ensure that property is both safe and secure.

• As you can appreciate, information changes quickly and I want to assure our residents that we are working hard…and we will ensure that from this point on, evacuees will get information updates at least twice a day.

• To our residents who are displaced from our communities… I want to say that we are working quickly on two fronts…

• …first, to fight this fire which has caused so much damage to our communities…

• …and secondly, to begin the recovery process…to rebuild and get residents back to our communities.

• I know this has been difficult and our hearts go out to people who have experienced loss.

• These are such tight knit communities and it’s hard to see the loss experienced by our friends and family.

• I know you are all anxious to return home and get on with your lives.

• But right now, it’s not safe to return.

• And it won’t be safe until critical infrastructure like water, power, gas, telecommunications and health services are in place… and the risk of fire is diminished.

• As soon as the risk is gone and the infrastructure is in place, we can begin getting people back into the community.

• I recognize there is a lot of uncertainty, and I want to assure all of our residents that we are working on a plan with the Government of Alberta to look after our residents.

• Your safety and security is important to us, and we will continue to ensure this is our top priority though this disaster.

• I also want our residents to know that I, along with members of both of our councils… will personally be going to each of the reception centres to talk to our residents…to see each of you…and make sure your needs continue to be met.

• Thank you to each of you, who are helping and supporting the needs of our residents.

• This is truly a tough experience and I want our residents to know that we have been working hard…and we will continue to work hard to get through this.

• Thank you.

Here is a map of the fires near Slave Lake, showing heat detected by satellites over the last 24 hours.

Map of Slave Lake fire 1000 May 18 2011
Map of Slave Lake fires, 1000 May 18, 2011. MODIS/Google

Below is one of the best videos of the Slave Lake fire. It was posted on YouTube by the Government of Alberta on May 16.

Photos, posted by the Government of Alberta

Weather forecast for Slave Lake

Video of the Premier’s news conference about the fire

Slave Lake highway update

A video interview with Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee

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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.