Alberta asks feds for help to battle wildfires

Premier Smith announced funding available for people displaced more than seven days

Peace officer talks to resident at a check stop near Entwistle, Alta.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says that the province is requesting assistance from the federal government to help battle almost 100 wildfires.

The requests are for water purification services, continues RCMP assistance and military support.

Over the weekend, Alberta declared a state of emergency due to the forest fires.

“There is no question that this is a challenging time. Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes and jobs they are leaving behind all they own and wondering if they will lose everything they worked for,” said Smith.

Smith also announced that help was on the way for wildfire evacuees in the form of a one-time financial assistance to residents who have been forced to evacuate.

“Every adult who has been forced to evacuate and displaced for seven days will receive $1,250 along with an additional $500 for each dependant child under 18,” said Smith.

People will apply through a verified MyAlberta account and money will be sent by etransfer.

Those without access to internet can call the wildfire resource line 310-4455.

Smith said the government is working to make sure remote First Nation and Métis communities will get the payments as well.

People who are displaced for a shorter period of time are not eligible for funds but can access help through emergency services that are at the evacuation centres.

“Red Cross comes in and has a tremendous job connecting people with hotels for three days,” said Smith.

According to the Alberta Wildlife status dashboard there are 98 fires burning, which is down from the weekend number of 108 active fires.
So far this year, wildfires have burned 380,000 hectares across the province.

Alberta wildfires
Entwistle, Alta. Photo: Danielle Paradis

Residents hope to re-enter communities soon

At a railroad crossing 117 km from Edmonton at the entrance to Entwistle, a hamlet of 750 people, residents drive up to the checkpoint to talk to the peace officer for the county who is stationed there.

“The rain has helped but not enough, the biggest thing is that the wind has died down,” said the peace officer to a group who got turned around when they were trying to get to a jobsite.

People come in to check on their property, or cattle. The stay is meant to be temporary as there is no water or gas services in the area.
“Cows are fine,” said one an as he drives away.

Nearby, Lac Ste. Anne, the holy sited that Pope Francis visited last June is quiet. Residents from the county were under an evacuation notice on May 5, but people have since returned to their homes or summer houses in the area.

The forest fires did not reach them.

Alberta Wildfire have announced that they are prioritizing the fires near the Town of Edson, Grizzly complex, Evansburg, Entwhistle and Fox Lake.

Lac Ste. Anne county. Photo: Danielle Paradis

Further north a social media post from the Town of Rainbow lake said that “Forestry was successful in burning back towards the fire, creating a strong position.

O’Chiese First Nation has evacuated 8o people and reports that one home has been destroyed.

In Little Red River Cree nation, more than 40 structures, including homes were lost in the wildfires.

Darryel Sowan, the emergency communications coordinator for the nation said 3,7000 people left the area quickly after the evacuation order was put in place.

“Because it is isolated, a lot of those people have never been away from the reserve,” Sowan told the Canadian Press on Monday.
“We want to get them back there and they want to go home. We are trying our best.”

Chief Conroy Sewepgham posted on Facebook that officials are planning to do a full assessment of the community, including aerial images to try to see which homes have been damaged or destroyed.

Hospital patients and long term care evacuations

Three hundred patients and long term care residents have been evacuated from Drayton Valley, Edson Health Centre, Fox Creek Health Care Centre and High Prairie.

The Edmonton Oilers community foundation will be dedicated net proceeds from the Oilers playoffs 50/50 starting May 9 until the end of round two in the playoffs.

Smith put out a call for trained emergency support and fire fighters.

“We have a number of Indigenous communities who have firefighting capabilities…up to 450,” Smith announced as a press conference. Smith said she wanted to find a way to get assistance from those who have the expertise.

In Ottawa, Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said her department is keeping in touch with First Nations affected by the fires.

“Indigenous Services Canada has been working non-stop with the leadership including partners of the government of Canada to coordinate and ensure evacuees and community efforts are well supported,” she said. “I spoke this week with Chief Conray Sewepagaham of Little Red River Cree Nation, some of the biggest fires impacting his communities. It’s been a very difficult time as you can well imagine for everyone.”

Assistance during the wildfires:
Download Alberta emergency alert app on your smartphone
511 for road closures link


With files from the Canadian Press

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