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. Jason

    This is creepy. Believe it or not there are smaller towns in NY. This reminds me of the size of town I was born and raised in.

    May 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. guy

    I came south on the only road out of town last night. The highways were opening and closing sporadically. For a time we parked at the airfield. There explosions of gas tanks or something for a while. My co -worker brought his family here and we agreed we didn't know Slave Lake had that many cars. Nice orderly line of cars though and we drive big distance. 100 miles to home. News reports are saying hospital was saved. Also rcmp not totally destroyed. Nobody injured. Not a single one. We are blessed.

    May 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • iamthefreman

      I wonder why there are "hundreds of buildings " in a town of population 9,500? And why is everybody waiting till their shoes are on fire? You saw this thing coming for some time.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Super-Duper-Pooper-Scooper

      If you take 9800 and assume an average of 4 people live in a house that would mean there is approximately 2450 homes. The mayor has said approximately one third of the town has been destroyed so that would mean approximately 800 homes were destroyed.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name*Alberta resident

      Good on you for doing the math for the armchair firefighter there SDPS'er, 'cause he don't know that we don't live 9 eskimos per igloo.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • wzrd1

      It's a shame that we can't get our excess water up to where it's needed!
      Glad to hear no serious injuries or fatalities, hope the rest of the town fares well.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • KatyJane

      Think about it. Most people do not live in the same building that they work in.

      I like the exaple of "4 people ber house" (personal note: I think 4 people per house is high in my experience – but a good baseline), you did not include detached garages or barns – yes this could go on for ever.

      The point is every structure is a lose. Every structure is somewhere someone could have been trapped and killed, and every structure is somewhere that will have to be searched (in case someone did get trapped), and every structure is burnt reckage that will have to be removed – safely. And finally every structure financial loss for someone trying to build a better life – for themselves and their loved ones.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. driranek

    As climate change progresses these extremes will only get worse. If you rebuild, do so out of concrete and steel and thank your government for doing nothing about the real source of the problem.

    May 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Q

      Lets maybe wait for the science to come in here before blaming yet another routine act of nature on global warming.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Clinton


      May 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • sue

      Ha Ha Ha! oh yes.... blame it on climate change! ...... MORON.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • tbrnotb

      Oh yeah. I would so listen to Sue, Q and "Bill" rather than the scientific community of the world. What happened to Americans to make them all feel that their "opinions" are always correct? Was it the educational sysytem that was gutted during the Reagan years or what? I suppose these three also believe in creationism. LOL!

      May 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tika8220

      tbrnotb: I wasn't aware that the scientific community had stated this fire was caused by global warming. Chances are someone through a cigarette but out the window onto some dry grass during the driest time of the year. How is that climate related?

      May 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. The Janissaire

    Ok, this really bothers me – not becuase the town is burning( yes I feel sorry for them) but because of the timing of the fire. Let me explain:
    This is a wildfire – A WILD FIRE IN MAY!!! Have also heard the term "Fire Storm" being used a couple of times in reports

    This is most likely to be a symptom of global warming – oh wait – some people say there's no such thing – but think about it.
    IT"S MAY!! – in a region that far North – they should have had snow – or lot's of it – it should have melted fairly recently – the ground at least should now be relatively damp – the trees waking up and sucking in that water lowering the fire threat. Perhaps the trees were dry from last year, perhaps they didn't get snow this year or there was a lack of it.

    If they are already having a crisis like this so early in the year...what's going to happen when it's July/August and they don't get precipatation?

    May 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tika8220

      Actually May is high season for wildfires in this area. There was lots of snow this winter, which melted a few weeks ago. The ground is still wet but all of the dead underbrush from last year is very dry and that is what is burning. The new green growth hasn't come in yet so this is the worst time for fires. The time between when the snow is gone but the new growth hasn't grown in yet. This has nothing to do with global warming or climate change.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dustin

      This comment is ridiculous and uneducated. Canada isn't the north pole. The snow would have been gone by late March, early April.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Q

      Leave the climatology to the people who actually know something about it.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jill

      Dustin, you are the uneducated one...we are south of Slave Lake and still have snow in some areas as of today (May 16, 2011). You may want to check YOUR facts. If you don't live here, don't assume. We had a major snow storm only a couple of weeks ago. The chinook winds STILL occur in May believe it or not. This year particularly the winds have been unbearable. It is the middle of May and we have yet to crack 20 degrees celsius.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      May is the most active and dangerous time for wildfires in this part of Canada. The snow is recently gone and all the dead grass and undergrowth from last summer is perfect tinder for fire. The fire threat will lessen when the new green growth starts to appear. This has nothing to do with global warming or climate change.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • iamthefreman

      PANIC PANIC !!!!! EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! YIKES!!! The sky is NOT falling. May happens to be the dryest month and it is the easiest time for a forest fire to start. The snow melts leaving the ground exposed to the direct sun with no ground cover growing yet. Old leaves and grasses from the fall are all that is covering the ground. They are tinder-dry right now after sun exposure of only a few days. It IS NOT global warming.. This happens every year in almost all North American forests.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anabelle

      Dustin's comment is ridiculous and uneducated. Edmonton still had snow in some places at the start of May. We're 250km away from Slave Lake and May is a prime time for wildfires all through Alberta. Even in some places that have overgrown tinder in some spots, wildfires so happen in the same cities where there's snow built up against houses. We were being warned a long time ago that even though the ground is moist, the tinder and overbrush on top of it will ignite and cause wildfires. Edmonton had wildfires in early May.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Audrey

      may of had a lot of snow, but a quick melt and no rain so that is why

      May 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nate

      Your not uneducated Dustin, the snow is usually gone from here in early April as you said. We just have freakish weather, and this year it included snowstorms in late April.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Canadian Local

      This was one of the coldest, snowiest and longest winters in years up here and even so, the snow has been gone for over a month. April is typically our spring up here, not the middle of May, this is not the north pole or anything.

      May 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bernie

      Dustin: You are not wrong. We live just over an hour from Smoky Lake.Last year mid April there was not a lick of snow, this year we still have snow early May. Last year at this time crops were in and life was good! This year most of the fields were to wet to plant, yet the pastures are dry under foot and fire bans are in place all over, just like last year. For us, this is the perfect time of year for wild fires.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • KatyJane

      This year the snow stayed late. I was in a snow storm two weeks ago. It is not unual to have snow storms on the May 24 weekend.

      I do not plant my bedding plants until June the 1st because of the risk of frost.

      I am in Calgary, Alberta about 400 miles SOUTH of Slave Lake.

      We have great RVing. you are welcome to come up and see for yourself.

      All the Best!

      May 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Linari

    My thoughts and prayers to the residents of Slave Lake.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Name*Alberta resident

    Janissaire, you are an uneducated big mouth. Perhaps this, perhaps that. I'll bet that before the fires, you couldn't even point Alberta on a globe. This winter was brutal, tons of snow and a late melt. This is boreal forest country where trees will burn even if the ground is saturated. The high winds have tinder dried the underbrush, winds add fuel and change the fire's course. Google a black spruce before you stick your foot in deeper.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Audrey

      right on

      May 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • KatyJane

      Very true!

      May 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kim

    Change your towns name.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Super-Duper-Pooper-Scooper

      Screw off. The name of the town has nothing to do with slaves. The origin of the name of Slave Lake relates actually to the naming of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, where an aboriginal nation derogatorily named “Slavee” by several tribes of the invading Cree nation existed. Cartographers in the 19th century named the body of water right in the middle of the province of Alberta Lesser Slave Lake simply to differentiate it from its far northern counterpart.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name*Alberta resident

      Ok, how's Cotton Picking Lake? lol

      May 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jasmine

      Slave Lake has been the name of the town for a long time. I don't think someone like you has any say in changing the name because it may be politically incorrect. If you're from the states, perhaps you should look to your south and change the thought of bigotry and racism there first before telling people to change town names in canada.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bernie

      Kim, funny thing that! I live in Alberta, and guess what??? I'm black. I have never thought of or wanted Slave Lake to change it's name. The name is fine the way it is. If indeed you are American, leave your crap inside your borders, don't bring it to ours!

      May 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bill Clinton

    IT'S GEORGE BUSH'S FAULT..........

    May 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MeatTreat

    I live in Sask, its mega dry here!! Not a lot of green. And it is so windy I think my house is going to blow down.
    I'd hate to live in a small town and see it going up in flames... feel bad for the people of Slave Lake.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Allie

    LOL global warming. yeah...right.........

    May 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TQ

    When I heard Slave Lake was on fire, I thought it was in the Southern United States... Mississipi maybe... Prayers go out to the residents up there.

    May 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Linari

    BILL CLINTON, you cap lock key is stuck.

    May 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. FooseF150

    Slave Lake didn't see this coming. It happened so fast...with the winds blowing at 100 km/hr the fire just engulfed the area and people had to leave without much notice. I want to say God bless everyone.

    May 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. candy

    Hey, Americans! Black Slavery was an *american* problem. I know it's really quite hard for some of you to look beyond your own country into other countries but if you ever learned anything about Canada you'd know we didn't keep black slaves. In fact, we saved them. Slave lake is called slave lake after the native customs there. In otherwords, the natives kept slaves.
    Now that we're done opinionating on the names of towns, global warming and whether or not a Canadian spring can somehow melt a wildfire why don't we concentrate on the fact 100's of people lost their homes? There's an idea eh!
    Oh and by the way, the 100 km an hour wiind blew the fire into the town int he matter of minutes. There was no time. Anyone who understands the nature of forest fires would know this. And no, it's not COMMON to lose a township to a wildfire in North America. Where would such a crazy notion even come from? So why don't you ignoramous's shut up while you're still ahead?

    May 16, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bernie

      Candy: Yes Canada had slaves. Look it up, the history is there. And yes, slaves from the States did escape and come to Canada where they could be free. Check out history if you don't believe me.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hussman

      My thoughts reading a lot of the posts was that people were really getting stuck on non-issues. The real issue is that thousands of lives have been greatly impacted by this disaster. Fortunately nobody has been hurt physically. Emotionally and financially is a very different matter. Hopefully there are lots of people showing compassion on the victims and not so worried about proving themselves right.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      This is a terrible month in the U.S. and Canada. Fires in Canada, flooding in the US.

      I never thought about Canadians owning slaves. I checked out slavery in Canada on wikipedia. According to the article, it was practiced until 1833 when it was abolished throughout the British Empire. Of course, it was never on the scale that was seen with black slavery in the U.S. and Caribbean and Indian slavery throughout Mexico and the southern Americas.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Uncle Safety

    Here is a newspaper with some amazing photos of the devestation......HORRIBLE !!!


    May 16, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
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