Going home

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Last week was a week of returns. High Level evacuees – after a couple of weeks away – were allowed to go home on June 2. On June 4, the evacuation order for Marten Beach was lifted, although folks there remained on a 12-hour evacuation alert. And on June 8 the order was lifted for Trout Lake.

As for the rest…. They were still waiting for word by press time.

The returns were made possible by a variety of circumstances.

A change in weather was part of it, but far from the whole story.

At High Level, Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service personnel were part of a big effort to fire-proof the approaches to the community. The Chuckegg Creek fire was still there and still rated as out-of-control, but authorities deemed it safe to let residents return.

The McMillan Complex of fires northeast of Slave Lake had settled down early in the week as well. What burning there was was within the perimeter, and the fire hadn’t grown much from its total of about 230,000 hectares. On June 4, the M.D. of Lesser Slave Rive lifted the barriers and invited Marten Beachers to come back. Rain and cooler temperatures teamed up with the work ground and air crews were doing to build fire breaks. This happened on at least three fronts, since the fire also threatened Trout Lake on the north and Wabasca-Desmarais on the east.

Structure protection measures included the shifting of combustible stuff away from homes, as in this photo from Marten Beach.
This was the scene all week at Hwy. 754 at Hwy. 88. The same for Hwy. 813 on the other side of Wabasca, which remained evacuated and closed off at last report….

Structure protection measures had been taken in all three communities threatened by the McMillan fire. That included water tanks, hoses and sprinklers, which were still in place in Marten Beach when residents returned. They were asked to leave everything in place, just in case.

Wabasca seemed the most at risk. The fire was within four kilometres of the nearest settlement there. It was less than 10 kilometres from Trout Lake, 26.5 from Marten Beach and 32.8 from Slave Lake.

There were disruptions to industry that happened due to the fires. Tolko shut down its mill, but just for a day. Cenovus and CNRL both shut down operations and evacuated personnel in the area, according to a story in the Edmonton Journal.

As for actual damage from the McMillan Complex, it was rumoured last week that decked logs went up in smoke, belonging to a local company. But nobody The Leader got in touch with was too eager to talk about it. No doubt questions will be asked about the fire impact on the local companies at this week’s Forestry PAC meeting on Thursday at the Slave Lake Inn. Anyone interested in asking questions or hearing the reports can attend the meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the Medallion Room.

John MacDonald and Denis Carnochan.

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