Much Of Slave Lake Destroyed By Wildfires

Wildfires leave much of Canadian town of Slave Lake, Alberta, in smoldering ruins.

Much Of Slave Lake Destroyed By WildfiresAlmost one-third of Slave Lake, Alberta is gone and is in smoldering ruins after wildfires destroyed the town.  Highways 2 and 88 were partially cut off and hundreds of buildings have been consumed, including town hall and the radio station.

The town's population of 7,000 people was ordered to move toward large green areas, beaches or big parking lots like Wal-mart or Canadian Tire.  And the situation is so bad that people have been told they will be arrested if they don't leave the area.

Duncan MacDonnell with Alberta's Sustainable Resource Development tells they are battling unpredictable wildfires across the north.

"We've got some very large fires out there.  The thing is with these freakish winds... yesterday we had gusts of up to 100 km/h it is driving the flames very fast and these fires are moving very quickly."   

Unfortunately, those winds prevented water-bombers from taking off to douse the flames.

Rob Harris with the Alberta Fire Service says the area is expecting a mixed forecast.  "On Tuesday and Wednesday we're expecting lightning storms, which isn't going to help things either.  We're expecting a few additional starts in the next few days that will be caused primarily by lightning."

There are roughly 1,000 firefighters in the area right now.  "[We have] Twenty air tankers and we're bringing in resources from Ontario and BC.  We've got another 200 firefighters coming in today and tomorrow," says MacDonnell.

Barriere City Councillor Ward Stamer remembers when his city was swept by fire in 2003.  "The pumps are gone, the wells are dry and now we don't even have any water in our water system for the firetrucks."

He adds the people of Slave Lake are on his mind.

"I really feel for the people up there.  Hopefully they can be in a safe enough spot that they can hunker down.  And Iike I said, we had support services and we had the Salvation Army and we had the Red Cross here."