Rebuilding Slave Lake

Devastated by May wildfire, town prepares for an intensive rebuild

Now imagine 25 busy years crammed into the span of 24 months-the northern Alberta town's estimated timeline for the recovery process-and you start to see the challenge facing this town as it begins to rebuild following a devastating wildfire last May.

Slave Lake lost 374 dwellings and 52 more were seriously damaged in the fire, which investigators now believe was caused by arson. Another 59 were destroyed and 32 damaged in the surrounding area. In total, 732 residents in a town of 7,000 were left without a home.

Alberta Construction Magazine visited the town, located over 250 kilometres north of Edmonton, in the fall. Most of the debris had been cleared away by then, except for the occasional burned-out car that still littered the landscape. The southeastern part of town-hardest hit by the fires-no longer appeared like a rubble-strewn war zone. It was now like a new development ready for construction to begin.

There will be difficulties along the way, no doubt. There is so much activity that the town's infrastructure is struggling to keep up. Small towns have small workforces, and finding the necessary skilled workers has proven challenging for local builders. Even more difficult has been finding accommodations for these extra workers when one-tenth of the town's population is without a home and every hotel and campsite is full. But after all that Slave Lake has been through, these are happy problems to have.

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