By Thomas I. Likness in Edmonton
& Marvi Abellera, in Slave Lake, Alberta
EBC Edmonton Bureau
EDMONTON (Eagle News) – As dawn breaks over the town of Slave Lake in the western Canadian province of Alberta, dense smoke fills the air.
The town’s nearly 7,000 residents hope they won’t be waking to a nightmare they lived through eight years ago.
In 2011, a raging inferno forced everyone to leave and destroyed about one-third of the community’s homes.
Two forest fires burning near the town and a shift in wind direction have prompted the Alberta government to issue an evacuation alert.
Although the community is not in imminent danger, people are being told to prepare to leave on short notice.
That has resulted in line-ups at gas stations.
And the reaction of people runs the gamut from calm concern to panic.
So far everyone in the town is safe and people are keeping their fingers crossed that the fires can be held at bay.
But just half an hour away, people from Marten Beach were ordered out of their homes Thursday and are now living in an evacuation center in Slave Lake.
Evacuation orders have been issued for several small native Indian communities as well.
Officials of Paddle Prairie posted on their Facebook page that fire has destroyed 14 homes and another 80 are in danger.
For people under an evacuation alert, it is a wait-and-see situation.
The government is telling them fuel their vehicles and gather up their medications or prescriptions, drinking water and food.
As well, they should bring identification, passports, insurance policies and other important documents.
People with pets should also make arrangements for their animals.
Meanwhile, most of the northern part of Alberta is covered in a smoky haze as wildfires continue to scorch the region’s forests.
Air quality across the province is poor as the smoke has drifted hundreds of kilometres south.
Alberta Health says people may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath.
Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.
The department advises people to stay inside if they have breathing difficulties.
(Eagle News Service)