A helicopter hauling a water bucket flies over a neighbourhood devastated by wildfires in Slave Lake, Alberta. Photo: Todd Korol / Reuters
The bishop of the diocese of Athabasca is encouraging Albertans to “commit to the rebuilding and healing” of Slave Lake after the entire town was evacuated last Sunday.
Devastating wildfires destroyed a third of the town, located two-and-a-half-hours north of Edmonton. Firefighters continue to battle dozens of other wildfires across Alberta, the CBC has reported.
“As one who was in Slave Lake on Sunday, I share in a small measure the shock of the people of that community,” said Bishop Lawton in a statement.
At least five families from St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church, a shared ministry involving the Anglican, United and Lutheran churches, have lost their homes, said Bishop Lawton, who spoke with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Leigh Sinclair. Sinclair continues to minister to members of her congregation who have fled to Edmonton.
“To the best of our knowledge, St Peter’s buildings are intact, though we won’t know their state until we are able to see them in person,” said Bishop Lawton.
Many Slave Lake residents said they received little or no warning to evacuate. Provincial officials told CBC it was impossible to issue a prompt warning since the only radio station in town had already burned down.
Bishop Lawton asked people to be patient, saying it was too soon to determine the full implications of the disaster. He urged Canadians to continue praying for the victims and for the emergency workers. “In the bible (John 10:28), Jesus promised that no one can snatch us from his hand. Though things may be difficult, we do not lose hope,” said Bishop Lawton.
Archbishop Fred, Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, also issued a statement expressing the church’s “deep concern and care” for all affected by the wildfires.
“So many have been forced to evacuate, leaving behind a lifetime of memories in the place they called home,” he said. “We are moved to see how so many in other places have offered shelter and provided for their basic needs.”
Archbishop Hiltz assured affected communities of his continuing prayers.
Bishop Lawton also thanked parishes that opened their halls to process donations for evacuees. They include parishes in Boyle, Athabasca and High Prairie.