Two Alberta First Nations build temporary shelters for evacuees | Alberta fires 2023

Two Alberta First Nations build temporary shelters for evacuees | Alberta fires 2023

Two Alberta First Nations build temporary shelters for evacuees | Alberta Fires 2023

Nearly 800 members of the indigenous community were evacuated on May 13 due to advancing wildfires.

The Dene Tha' First Nation in northwestern Alberta plans to set up transitional shelters in the town of High Level to help residents who cannot return home due to illness. #x27;an extended evacuation order.

Residents of Chateh, for example, about 100 kilometers northwest of High Level, have left their community for nearly two weeks. Nearly 800 community members were evacuated on May 13 due to the advancing Long Lake Fire.

This week, they still had not been told when they could return.

Chateh is one of three communities that are part of the First Dene Tha' Nation, along with Bushe River and Meander River.

Chief Wilfred Hooka-Nooza said the planned new space will include laundry facilities, a kitchen and a rest area. common leisure center that can accommodate approximately 400 people.

It's just about finding a way to make our people as comfortable as possible, being away from home, he explained.

It foresees that x27;it will take two or three weeks before the camp is finished and can be used for the rest of the summer if needed.

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According to Chief Wilfred Hooka-Nooza, the camp will be able to accommodate around 400 people.

Some community members are staying just east of High Level in Bushe River.

Céline Mercredi, a eldest from Chateh, uses the evacuation center there, but says she is homesick.

“It's frustrating, loneliness. It's quite difficult […] We have rooms, showers, bathrooms and a kitchen. We are well taken care of, but this is not our home.

— Céline Mercredi, an evacuee from Chateh

Many other people are camping in tents around Bushe River, including Kenneth Beaulieu and his family. I'm not going to lie, ever since we left home it's been hard. It's really hard, testified Mr. Beaulieu, in an interview on Wednesday. He added that they slept on cots in tents and it was cold at night.

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Céline Mercredi, an indigenous elder from Chateh living in Bushe River, testifies to the loneliness, being far from home.

The community is also building a new mental health center in Bushe River. Funded by the federal government, it has 19 units staffed with addiction specialists.

[Our members] are displaced and have a lot of concerns, Hooka-Nooza said. This would be a good opportunity to take advantage of this service.

The First Nation is visited by a mental health counselor about once a week, but Chief Wilfred Hooka- Nooza estimates it would take four.

Kenneth Beaulieu said he's been trying to see a counselor for some time.

“I'm still traumatized by what happened last year. Last year it was the flood and this year it was the fire. What else could happen?

— Kenneth Beaulieu, an evacuee from Chateh

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Kenneth Beaulieu (left) and his partner Lucinda Meneen (right) camp in tents around Bushe River, after a forest fire forced the evacuation of Chateh.

Floods also forced residents of Chateh from their homes in May 2022.< /p>

About 100 miles east of High Level in Fox Lake, about 3,000 people remain under an evacuation order. The community is part of the Little Red River Cree Nation.

Emergency Management Communications Officer Darryel Sowan said residents of Fox Lake were evacuated for 22 days. They too are building a camp for the evacuees.

We want them to move from gym floors and cots back to real beds as soon as possible, said Darryel Sowan. We do not yet know when they will be able to reintegrate into the community.

As of May 25, 3 First Nations, including Dene Tha', were still in a state of evacuation or evacuation alert. More than 5,300 of their members were still evacuated.

Some 150 structures in First Nations communities are lost to wildfires.

As of Friday, 51 fires were still burning in Alberta, with 14 not yet under control. The province says it has successfully contained two other large fires since Thursday.

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There are currently 21 local states of emergency and 6 evacuation orders. A total of 5257 people are still being evacuated, while 5 reception centers remain open in the affected areas.

With the arrival of the weekend, we will not not see the same conditions that favored the spread of extreme wildfires. We are working with a more typical weather system for the season, said Melissa Story of the provincial Alberta Wildfire agency.

Cooler weather across most of the province has helped firefighters make progress in fighting wildfires. [However] temperatures are expected to rise over the weekend, which means we may see a slight increase in fire behavior, she said.

With information from Natasha Riebe and Kayla Hounsell