Albertans lean on each other during wildfire evacuation; 4 homes lost around Drayton Valley

Albertans lean on each other during wildfire evacuation; 4 homes lost around Drayton Valley

The evacuation order for Drayton Valley remained in effect Sunday evening and the fire chief is warning people to stay away.

“This fire remains out of control and so it’s imperative that people stay out of this area,” said Tom Thomson, fire chief for Drayton Valley and Brazeau County Fire Services.

“I can’t stress that enough. The evacuation order remains in effect for this area.

“Even with the change in the weather and the rain, the fire has grown over 40 per cent in the last 24 hours,” he said. “We went from 3,500 hectares in size to now 4,970 hectares.

“The risk to the public is still extremely high and it is not safe to enter the community at this time.”

Thomson said officials are working ahead on a re-entry plan and will share it once the fire is under control and re-entry can be considered. There is no timeline for any potential return.

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Conditions improved slightly Sunday, Thomson said, but he confirmed four homes have been destroyed.

“We had a bit of light rain in the region this morning and the hard work of our fire crews has worked in our favour. However, it was not enough to make a significant change in the situation to allow re-entry into the fire area.

“We are deeply saddened to confirm that four homes have been lost due to this wildfire. We’re in the process of notifying the homeowners,” Thomson said, adding the four properties were on the perimeter of Drayton Valley.

“There still has been significant fire activity in the last 24 hours and properties are still at risk. We are still investigating further losses.”

Thomson said, overall, the cooler weather and rain helped the community but he stressed that any weather or wind change can dramatically affect the situation.

“We understand that there are rumours circulating that the community is safe and that you can return to the community,” a post on the Town of Drayton Valley’s Facebook page reads. “This is false and you will be turned away at the checkpoints that have been set up along the perimeter.”

Meanwhile, Thomson praised the community members for coming together and supporting one another.

Click to play video: 'Entire town of Drayton Valley evacuated by wildfire'

Entire town of Drayton Valley evacuated by wildfire

“This is the busiest three days we’ve ever had,” said Glenn Belva,  who runs a general store in Rocky Rapids, Alta.

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Belva told Motorcycle accident toronto today he’s been receiving unscheduled deliveries to make sure he keeps his shelves stocked as much as possible for those forced from their homes by the fires. He also opened on Sunday, a day the store is usually closed.

“We opened just to help everybody out,” he said. “Everybody is pretty desperate to get supplies.

“I was here until 12 o’clock last night and I was here at about 5:30 this morning.”

Roughly 7,200 residents from Drayton Valley and some of the surrounding area, have been displaced from their homes since late Thursday night, according to Alberta Wildfire officials. Approximately 1,000 have been staying at a convention centre in Edmonton.

Click to play video: 'Drayton Valley wildfire evacuees head to Edmonton'

Drayton Valley wildfire evacuees head to Edmonton

Other evacuees have sought refuge in hotels and recreational vehicles.

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Zack Dressler made a quick stop at the Rocky Rapids General Store Sunday morning, before heading out to deliver potable water free of charge to those who need it.

“We thought this would be a good service for all the people out evacuated in their RVs right now,” Dressler said, moments after promising to bring water to yet another evacuee. “Nobody really had time to fill up with water or anything like that.”

Dressler works for a septic pump out and waste removal company, and he says they “rigged up a vehicle” that can provide clean drinking water to RVs.

“I want to make people as comfortable as possible,” he said, before taking off to his next call.

Many customers at the general store said it was normal for the community to come together during times of need. Belva plans to keep doing what he can to keep supplies available to those who need them for as long as the evacuation orders last.

“Until everybody gets settled back, we’ll just help them out,” Belva said with a shrug. “That’s what we’re here for.”

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