By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – As of May 10, nine First Nations in Alberta have been impacted by the wildfires raging across the province, according to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).
The impacted nations are:
- Little Red River Cree Nation (Fox Lake)
- Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation
- O’Chiese First Nation
- Whitefish Lake First Nation #459
- Sunchild First Nation
- Swan River First Nation
- Sucker Cree First Nation
- Driftpile Cree Nation
- Beaver First Nation
The federal government says it’s assisting those who have been forced to flee their communities and those who remain with mental health support, access to non-insured health benefits, Jordan’s Principle program access, and nursing and environmental health public services.
The Little Red River Cree Nation community of Fox Lake’s wildfire is still considered out of control and all 3468 residents have been evacuated to John D’or Prairie, High Level, Fort Vermillion, Garden River, and La Crete. Fox Lake is where the majority of the nation’s members reside.
The government is working with the nation to establish temporary housing to house 500 people in John D’or Prairie “to enable evacuated individuals to return to familiar surroundings.” The housing will include a “commercial kitchen and other basic amenities.”
Initial assessments suggest that more than 100 buildings have been destroyed, including residences and the Northern Store.
Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation has also been impacted severely, with 1,600 people evacuated to Edmonton, Valleyview and Grande Prairie due to the wildfire that is still regarded as out of control.
According to initial assessments, 45 buildings have been destroyed, including homes and the Elder Centre. The reserve’s power infrastructure has also been lost. The feds are assisting Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation to create temporary housing to accommodate more than 100 people.
Whitefish Lake First Nation has seen 740 evacuations while Beaver First Nation has seen 180 evacuations. A portion of O’Chiese First Nation was ordered to evacuate, resulting in 77 evacuations, while the rest of the reserve remains on alert.
The provincial government announced that Gift Lake Metis Settlement is under evacuation alert.
East Prairie Metis Settlement, which is located near High Prairie, saw 27 homes and a bridge burned in a fire still classified as out of control, resulting in 300 evacuations.
There’s also an out of control fire near the Peavine Metis Settlement, but there is no evacuation alert.
Individuals who have been affected by wildfire or who have been evacuated can access health services through provincial health care systems or access virtual supports such as 24/7 mental health support through the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or through online chat at hopeforwellness.ca. In Alberta, additional mental wellness supports are also available via the Alberta Indigenous Virtual Care Clinic at 1-888-342-4822.