The Alberta government has announced evacuation payments for the 29,000 Albertans who’ve been displaced by wildfires raging across the province’s north.
During an extensive wildfire update on Monday afternoon, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced that eligible evacuees will receive $1,250 per adult and an additional $500 per dependent child under 18 years.
Smith also put out an urgent call for 1,000 volunteer firefighters, saying some experienced Indigenous firefighters would like to join the fight. The premier said those who are brought in will be trained to join existing teams efficiently.
“You certainly don’t want to bring in new people who are unfamiliar with how to do this type of firefighting…we just want to be open to seeing if there are individuals in some of those rural and remote communities who can integrate into our existing teams so that we have as many hands on deck to fight these fires (as) locally as possible so that we can reduce the costs,” she said.
Public Safety and Emergency Service Minister Mike Ellis said he’s asked the Canadian military to safeguard evacuated communities against looting, among a host of other requests.
Sources on the ground in Drayton Valley told True North they’ve heard of multiple reports of looting as residents have been forced to flee. Those who don’t comply with evacuation orders face fines of $10,000 or one year in prison.
On Monday morning, the Town of Drayton Valley announced on Facebook that four homes have been lost in the wildfires. Parts of the town have been under an evacuation order since Thursday, with the order expanding throughout the weekend.
Christie Tucker, information unit manager for Alberta Wildfire, said the light rain has enabled firefighters to make headway on some out of control fires.
“We’re not out of the woods, yet,” Tucker added, saying the province is forecast to heat up later this week.
Evacuees can apply for the payment at alberta.ca/emergency using an Alberta.ca Account. Funds can take up to 24 hours to flow into accounts and will be disbursed via e-transfer. Evacuees who are unable to receive an e-transfer or who cannot apply online can contact 310-4455 for assistance and to make alternate payment arrangements.
While Smith updated the province on the ongoing wildfires, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was continuing her election campaign, with one stop in Calgary and another scheduled for Lethbridge on Monday night. Notley said it’s appropriate for her to continue campaigning as wildfires rage on in the province’s north because Alberta is in an election period.
Smith has not made any campaign announcements for the past three days, but attended a UCP fundraiser in Calgary on Saturday.
Notley did not answer a question from True North on Monday about whether it was wrong for the premier to receive criticism for attending a UCP fundraiser over the weekend considering that she’s continued her campaign.