By Dr. Andrew Jones
Hello fellow readers.
Many of you may not be aware of a devastating Wildfire that happened last Sunday in a Canadian town called Slave Lake.
Flames continued to flicker into the nighttime skies above Slave Lake after a devastating, fast moving wildfire caught community officials off guard.
The damage is catastrophic. Hundreds of homes, churches and businesses in the northern Alberta town have been destroyed. So too has the town hall and radio station. The power’s out, cellphone service has been spotty, and 7,000 residents have been forced to flee through a single road, the only highway open as fires rage on all sides.
Fire crews had little control – they had managed to save the south part of the town, but remained at the mercy of strong winds, gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour.
“It’s extremely devastating, our loss. It’s difficult to articulate,” Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee said late Sunday, adding: “A lot of things we’re battling now.”
In total it has been estimated that 40% of the town has been burned down.
When Slave Lake resident Sara Toner fled her home Sunday night she had only enough time to grab two things: her partner Darren and their one-year old daughter Olivia.
“We were running. There was fire in the backyard, and the truck wouldn’t start,” described Toner with wide, tear-filled eyes. “We didn’t have time to even think about my cat.”
Toner was one of the first Slave Lake residents to be reunited with her pet, a calico cat named Buttons, at the makeshift animal-refugee camp outside the Edmonton Expo Centre Wednesday.
“She’s a little burned and singed, so we’re going to take her to the vet,” she said. “We’ve got two other cats out there somewhere, so we have hope now that someone will find them.”
The first batch of animals rescued from the fire-ravaged town, about 40 cats, dogs, birds and even a bearded dragon, were shaken and tired but relatively unscathed, said Edmonton Humane Society spokesperson Shawna Randolph.
The first wave of reunions began early Wednesday morning and continued throughout the day.
“This has been such a rewarding, joyful day. It’s fantastic to see these families, who have lost everything, be reunited with their pets,” said Randolph.
Like Toner, Slave Lake resident Sweetgrass Hoof, 19, was forced to flee her home without her cat, Max.
She spent the next two nights sleeping fitfully, desperately wishing she had left water or food for the animal.
“We didn’t have enough time to pack, we didn’t have any time to put out food and water for him, it was horrible,” said Hoof through a flood of tears.
Soon the Slave Lake evacuee was grinning from ear to ear, as rescue workers handed her Max, uninjured and relatively calm inside his kennel.
“I’m so, so glad they saved him, I can’t thank them enough,” she said.
In the wake of the wildfires that devastated the small town, the Edmonton Humane Society’s animal rescue team has rounded up more than 100 animals, 40 of those found wandering through the charred streets or trapped inside their owner’s homes.
According to officials, it’s very common for pet owners to be blind-sided by a disaster. But Randolph stresses the importance of a pet-emergency plan.
“People need to be more prepared. If they have an emergency kit, and an extra carrier, they can just put the animal in, grab it and go,” she said.
Thanks to heroic efforts by officials, many of the rescued animals have already been identified.
So far no animal fatalities have been reported and Toner’s cat Buttons was the only animal injured, with just minor burns.
Any evacuees who would like to leave information about lost pets up in Slave Lake is asked to call the dispatch phone number at 780-491-3850.
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