Wildfire destroys half of town of 9,800
A building in Slave Lake, Alberta, burns Sunday. A wildfire has destroyed at least half the town of 9,800, according to media reports.
May 16th, 2011
12:20 PM ET

Wildfire destroys half of town of 9,800

An out-of-control wildfire has burned at least half of a Canadian town of 9,800, forcing its residents to flee in a slow-moving convoy on the only highway out of town.

Hundreds of buildings in the northern Alberta town of Slave Lake have been destroyed, including the town hall and police station, CNN affiliate CTV reported. No injuries have been reported.

“It’s extremely devastating, our loss. It’s difficult to articulate,” Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee told the Globe and Mail late Sunday.

The wildfire started east of the town, then split into two and encircled the town, Rob Harris, a fire information officer with Sustainable Resource Development, told the Edmonton Journal.

Winds up to 100 kph (62 mph) fanned the flames, according to the news reports.

"It's horrible; it's just going to spread because houses are 10 feet apart," Myrna Franklin said in a CTV report. "Our house is out of town, I don't know if it's gone yet or not."

“The smoke is terrifying, black and just billowing. I called everyone I could get a hold if and asked them to leave if they hadn't already,” Slave Lake resident Cindy Martin, 27, said in an e-mail quoted by the Globe and Mail. “I'm very much in panic. At this point even if our home is OK, there will not be much of the community to go back to. Who even knows if we will have a job to go back to? Our entire lives were in Slave and now it will never be the same and the fire doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.”

About 200 firefighters were battling the Slave Lake flames, according to the news reports, and more were being dispatched.

But fires are stretching resources in the province. At least 84 wildfires are burning in Alberta, with 29 of those out of control, according to the Edmonton Journal report.

Slave Lake is 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of the provincial capital of Edmonton, with a population of 9,851, according to the town's website. Oil and gas and timber are the area's major industries.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/05/16/vo.can.wildfire.burns.ctv"%5D
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Filed under: Canada • Fire • Natural Disasters
soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. RUFFNUTT

    how about a little fire scarecrow..

    May 16, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • kelly

      Ruffnut I hope you rot in hell

      May 16, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. astrology is magical

    This is really terrible. I hope everyone had insurance.

    May 16, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • edm

      Insurance probably won't cover this, as it is a natural disaster

      May 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. leeintulsa

    I wonder where it got the name, slave lake. Being in canada, it could have been founded by escaped or freed slaves in the 1800s

    May 16, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Ed_P

      Maybe just like Texas, they have a big resource exploitation that leaves natural gas in the little bit of water left. They wonder why streams explode into flames.

      May 16, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Sandie

      From the Slavey Indians in the area! Nothing to do with slavey or escaped slaves.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Jack Pearl

      It refers to an Indian tribe that inhabited the region. They were given the name by a stronger tribe that regularly subjugated them.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  4. solorguy

    I find it amazing that something like this can happen to our neighbors, and there is nothing on TV about it.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Canuda

      @solorguy – Thanks for that comment. As a Canadian living in the US as a permanent resident I will say that nothing really surprises me any more about America. In general, Canada somehow ceases to exist.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Really? It's not surprising to me that Canadian stories are largely ignored in the USA. Canada is the largest trading partner of the USA and vice versa. Canada is also the USA's largest supplier of oil (and electricity, natural gas, uranium etc), but because it's peaceful it barely gets any interest except from the border states that understand the importance. I guess that's good and bad.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sandie

    @ Leeintulsa: Slave lake got it's name from the Slavey Indians.....some of the original people of the area. It's a beautiful community....on a big georgeous lake.... It's truly a heavenly place.....or it was, Now it just seems like hell on earth. We live not too far away and are totally choking from the smoke......I can't imagine what this pretty town looks like now! The beaches on the lake are beautiful sand.....the lake is shallow a long way out, making it good for kids, and the fishing is awesome.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  6. Canuda

    I am from the province of Alberta and lived in the city of Edmonton which is about a 3 1/2 drive south of Slave lake before moving to NJ ten years ago. Slave Lake is basically known for its oil and that what drives the economy. This will devastate the community. Being that far north, it is difficult to find housing etc, given that Alberta is so sparcely populated. The government will need to step in and provide some type of emergency assistance. I send a prayer to the people back home.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. SgtSerge

    I was surprised to see this on CNN. Maybe Americans do care about us .......
    I hope these people get out ok and can start rebuilding again. Since the population is so sparce who build houses so close together? Maybe after all this, they will have a newly built town that has some elements of the lessons learned here.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. TJ

    I i have two words for you when you return after the fire is out: BRICK and SLATE

    May 16, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jesseca5

    A friend that Lives and works in Fort Saskatchewan sent me this article. We in Texas can sympathize with you as we just went through some hellish wild fires out in West and Central Texas. Our prayers are with you.

    Jesse in Texas

    May 16, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Suzie

      As a former Alberta resident, I thank you for your kind words, and I am sure many others feel the same way. I remember those Texas wildfires and felt so bad for Texans, not to mention other fires like the ones in Kelowna, Australia, California, etc. If I could have sent rain, I surely would have. Peace

      May 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Riff*Raff

    @SgtSerge-I was wondering the same about the proximity of the houses. For a pop. of 10k thats very close quarters. I hope everyone was able to evacuate.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. J moorman inMpls

    My father was abouy tender on great slave lake in the early 1940s is that the same lake?he said it was best lake trout fish in the world.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • katbill

      Great Slave Lake is actually in the North West Territories, it isn't the same place although the fishing is also fabulous. For all the people that seem to think that all the houses are only 10 feet apart, the town is similar to many others where certain parts of it are built closely together and other areas the yards are considerably farther apart. It is a beautiful town and we are all praying for the people there.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Tika8220

      Great Slave Lake is in the Northwest Territories. This town is on Lesser Slave Lake in northern Alberta.

      May 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Riff*Raff

    @Sandie-Thanks. I learned something today:-) Knowledge is a good thing

    May 16, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. banasy

    My condolences to our neighbors to the North. May you rebuild better than ever.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Suzie

      Beautifully said.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Devorah

    I have every faith that those amazing Canadians will rise above this terrible event. I know how strong,and wonderful they are..I married one! CA is a beautiful land, with wonderful people and I know they will get through this. Hey, at lest you can see your fire..here in the States we are burning from deep inside and the citizens are so blind and greedy they won't choke until the economy and their greed swallow them up whole! Will keep you all in prayer CA..Be safe...Most of all..Be safe!

    May 16, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. Arlee

    I live 2 1/2 hours North of Slave Lake and Slave Lake was a nice little community on a large lake. I see you have asked why build so close together when you have a lot of room? Like all communities, it is cheaper when you don't have to run roads and essential services a long distance. It was like all small towns, it had one of all the things you need in a community not close to others, one hospital, one library, fire hall etc... As small as it was it still is the local hub for another half dozen smaller communities and lake side cottages which still might be in the way of fire as I type this. This town is in the middle of a large forest and wood is the building material of choice. The Lake is about 60 miles long and maybe 10 miles wide so it has a lot of places along the lake that have cabins that will not be counted in the damage reported. I hope they can contain this fire as soon as possible it is an asset to the entire province. I also heard that fire halls from as far as we are (Grande Prairie) 2 1/2 hours away have sent fire trucks and men to help. I'm sure that all communities within that range have sent other fire equipment and men as well to help. Good Luck to all that were residents of Slave Lake.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Sandie

      Edmonton and Strathcona have sent fire support as well. We go to Spruce Point every year in August....I hope the fire doesn't stretch that far! I think though, even if the houses weren't 10 feet apart, and were much further apart it wouldn't have made a difference for them....the wind was whipping everything up soooo bad....some of those buildings that burnt were 50 feet away, or more...from other building and they still caught fire......I really wonder what, if anything is going to be left for these poor people to return to.

      May 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • elc73

      Just heard that Ontario is sending fire support as well!!

      May 16, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
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