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Evacuees are welcomed back
as wildfire threat remains (UPDATED)

July 10th, 2019

[Update, August 6, 2019: Our evacuee guests are all now settled back at Heimstaed Lodge in La Crete. The first group of seven left on July 25, five more left the following day, and the final group left on Monday, August 5.]

Firefighters continue to battle hotspots in the Chuckegg Creek wildfire south and west of the Northern Alberta community of La Crete. As of July 10th, the fire is still considered out of control. And that means twenty vulnerable residents of Heimstaed Lodge have been relocated safely and comfortably far from the threat, to Points West Living Wetaskiwin. For many, it’s their second evacuation of this fire season.

Two evacuations

The first evacuation was June 1, during the emergency of the first fire surge (see June 7 story: Points West Living rallies to welcome wildfire evacuees). After a couple of weeks, all of the 17 La Crete evacuees were able to return home to Heimstaed Lodge. Then the wildfire threatened again, so on June 18, PWL Wetaskiwin opened its doors once more, this time to 20 designated care evacuees.

“Alberta Health Services asked if we could take them back,” says General Manager, Tamara Thomas, who of course agreed to do so. “So they sent some of the evacuees we’d already had, plus more. We put the returning guests in the same rooms and same cottages they’d been in before, so they’d have some familiarity with their surroundings.”

Much smoother this time around

“This time it went so much smoother,” says Tamara. “Everything is a lot calmer, some families have come, and Health Care Aides from Heimstaed Lodge have come to support (two for each day shift and evening shift).” With those workers, volunteers, and families, Tamara says there are enough German speakers to ensure the evacuees are getting the communication they want and need.

The timing of their return worked out well too since most of what was needed to accommodate the guests was still in place. “Before I got the call,” Tamara says, “I had just said to our maintenance man that we should start taking the beds out – which would involve taking off the doorframes.”

“We had cleaned everything so we restocked the empty cottages, and food services adapted immediately,” says Tamara. “Everything is going smoothly.” Some of the evacuees have even joined in the larger PWL Wetaskiwin community with dining and recreation activities.

Volunteers continue to be involved

Volunteers for the Wetaskiwin community continue to be involved, and, “people from a local church donated ‘help yourself’ gift baskets of toiletries for the evacuees, and visited with a whole bunch of little kids, which was great.”

Tamara says she has no idea how long the evacuees will be staying, but she’s happy to have them, and more if the need arises; “I have a few more rooms!”

Photo: Bernice (centre) a Health Care Aide from Heimstaed Lodge in La Crete has come to PWL Wetaskiwin to provide care for the Lodge’s wildfire evacuees, including Elizabeth (right) and Steve (inset).

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