Ashley Brazean left Slave Lake, Alta., a year ago to start a family of her own, leaving behind her mother, sister and aunt — and a slew of memories.
“That’s my whole childhood that just burned down,” said Brazean as she dropped off donations at the Westlock Community Hall, now an evacuation centre for her former town, 160-kilometres away.
Police said nearly a third of Slave Lake has been destroyed by two blazes that left about 10,000 people without homes or waiting to hear of their home’s fate.
Brazean’s mother’s, aunt’s and sister’s homes are all gone, she said.
Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee said that, despite earlier reports, the RCMP station was still intact but that the town hall and library were levelled.
Evacuation centres filled up in Westlock and Athabasca, where no motel rooms were available by late day.
Edmonton’s Expo Centre also took those affected.
Residents, many given minutes to evacuate Sunday, were initially told to stay off highways. In doing so, many were forced to change course as they tried to flee flames.
“It looked like a nuclear bomb hit,” said Ian Cameron, who left with his girlfriend and only the clothes on his back, plus a few photographs.
“It was chaotic, a thousand or so people trying to leave at the same time.”
Like many, he is not sure if his home will be there when he gets back.