NWT evacuees are all over Alberta, and about 926 of them are at the G.H. Dawe Community Centre and surrounding hotels in Red Deer.
That was the official count as of Wednesday. The city is aiming to host up to 1,000 people seeking refuge from wildfires.
People began pouring in Thursday, Aug. 17.
“The city is still accepting evacuees and is working with local hotels to increase capacity,” said Carol Lind, Red Deer’s emergency management coordinator. “Once capacity is reached, the province will be notified and this information will be posted on their website.”
Beyond that, the City of Red Deer, which has a population of just over 100,000, is reaching out to neighboring communities such as Sylvan Lake and Blackfalds for additional support.
“The city will continue to accept people as long as hotel space is available,” Lind said.
In terms of funding, the City of Red Deer will submit for reimbursement through the province of Alberta, which has a contract with the Northwest Territories to provide emergency services.
The GNWT gave initial approval to provide support until Aug. 24, but this has now been extended until Sept. 5.
Municipal staff in Red Deer are providing updated information for evacuees on what they can do to prepare for when they are able to return home. But Lind pointed out that a return date was not yet established. Evacuees are advised to keep abreast of the situation through the Red Deer municipal website, contact their insurance companies and keep any receipts that weren’t covered by the reception centre for possible reimbursement.
The Red Cross is one of the community partners working with the City of Red Deer.
“They have provided 250 hygiene kits, cots and blankets in case group lodging is required,” said Lind.
She added that the decision to use hotels was made to provide privacy for evacuees and accommodate those with pets.
The city is also working with local businesses to provide more variety for evacuees. They have a program in place whereby evacuees are provided with a voucher to get a meal at participating restaurants. The restaurants then work with the city’s finance department for billing purposes.
The City of Red Deer continues to update its website with information about available hotels and restaurants.