Athabasca’s role in helping those evacuated from the threat of a wildfire near Wabasca is coming to a close. The role of the Athabasca Reception Centre was to provide food, shelter and daily necessities for those displaced as the result of a fire in the Calling Lake region that saw an estimated 5,000 people displaced from their homes. Athabasca was deemed a satellite reception centre to another one being operated in the community of Calling Lake.
The reception centre was set up about 8:30 pm on Sunday, May 24, 2015 at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex. Resources for those displaced from the evacuation of Wabasca and Bigstone Cree Nation were made available by registering at the centre.
- The Athabasca Emergency Response partners worked together to provide immediate services to all those arriving.
- Local and provincial 0fficials were on site at the reception centre and coordinated the provision of shelter, food, and medical needs.
- Many local organizations and businesses were integral to the overall success of the operation.
Evacuees began returning home in the evening of Tuesday, May 26th but approximately 105 chose to stay one more night at the reception centre until services had returned to normal in their communities.
The highest number of people staying at the reception centre was 715 people registered and 340 finding accommodation. Due to an existing Regional Emergency Response Plan many resources required to successfully operate the reception centre were already in place. The plan was developed following the 2011 Slave Lake evacuation which saw Athabasca providing a similar type of support to neighbouring communities.
“The Wabasca evacuation will be another opportunity to fine tune the Regional Emergency Response Plan with our municipal partners to see how we can further improve it,” says Ron Jackson, Director of Emergency Management for Athabasca County. “We wish the residents of Wabasca region and Bigstone Cree Nation a safe return to their homes and appreciate how gracious everyone was during their stay in our community.
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency worked alongside staff from Athabasca County, the Town of Athabasca, Athabasca Regional Multiplex staff and volunteers to coordinate local and provincial resources. As a result of this partnership the provision of all necessities at the reception centre worked very smoothly.
“All local businesses, service groups and individuals who came forward to offer help and resources provided an invaluable service to those staying at the multiplex,” says Doris Splane, Reeve of Athabasca County. “Everyone can be proud of what was accomplished over the last few days.”