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City of Cold Lake assists Fort McMurray evacuees

May 21, 2024
The Canadian Press

The City of Cold Lake has activated its emergency management protocols to ensure the safety and comfort of those affected.

Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland shared the status and preparations, noting that about 100 people have gone through the registration office over at the Agriplex in Cold Lake, although he also acknowledged that not all people go through the steps to register.

He noted the dynamic nature of the situation, stating that Lac La Biche also has evacuees staying in the community, adding, the evacuation did not affect the whole city of Fort McMurray, but just specific areas.

But the City of Cold Lake is ready if more people do arrive.

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“We have very highly trained staff when it comes to this, so we’re in a good position if the families and the people decide to come to Cold Lake, we’re in a good position to handle it.”

He also outlined the coordinated efforts in place.

“The emergency management office will reach out to Jeff Fallow, the fire chief, and then from there, CAO Kevin Nagoya’s organization is all prepared for to deal with the emergency crisis. So, his whole team will spool up.”

Praising the expertise of the local teams, the mayor stated, “Our people are very trained in it and so we’re pretty proud of the expertise that we have in Cold Lake.”

Addressing capacity, Copeland says the community has the ability to take in more evacuees, “for sure.”

The local hotels are not full, and there is still lots of space available. The mayor added that it is the provincial government that “is picking up the cost” to house evacuees.

“So, when you register… they direct you to hotels, depending on your needs. So, you’ll be directed to the list of hotels that have a three-week contract with the province.”

Encouraging evacuees to follow proper procedures, Copeland advised, “The best thing [is that] everybody that gets evacuated from Fort McMurray is to register at these centers, and then from there, the government can reach out through the City staff or whatever to help deal with some of the finances.”

Commending the City’s response efforts, Copeland concluded, “We’re all ready, staff have worked through the night, since about 2:30 in the morning, and then got back there first thing this morning in case people arrived.”

Evacuation centre

Jeff Fallow, Fire Chief and Manager of Protective Services, explained the operations at the Agriplex.

“The Agriplex is being used as a reception centre, where evacuees can register. We were asked by the Government of Alberta to open as a point of contact once Lac La Biche was full.”

Detailing the registration process, he added, “There is no one staying at the Agriplex itself, however we have registered over 100 people so far, along with over 30 animals, including two guinea pigs, one snake, and one gecko.”

Evacuees have been given options for food and lodging, “though some have opted to stay with friends or family in the area instead. Registered evacuees are also being provided access to the Energy Centre and upcoming programming,” explained Fallow.

“Currently our staff and trained volunteers have everything running smoothly. Only those who have taken the Emergency Social Services training will be called upon to support if necessary. This is a training opportunity we offer through Cold Lake and District FCSS at various times during the year, and we encourage members of the public to take this training for when events like this arise and volunteers are needed.”

For now, Fallow says they will wait for updates from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to determine the next steps.

“We hope that evacuees find a warm welcome in the City of Cold Lake, as we know our community is quick to step up when the need arises.”


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