Wildfire evacuees from Beaver Lake and Dene Tha' First Nations return home

Members of Beaver Lake First Nation and Dene Tha' First Nation who were forced to leave their communities a week ago because of a wildfire have been allowed to return home as of Tuesday. 

About half of the 400 Beaver Lake members who live in the communities of Child Lake and Boyer River returned as soon as the evacuation order was lifted, said Chief Trevor Mercredi.

"A lot of our elders are staying an extra day, just so we can make sure that their houses are safe and smoke free, and all the services are running before they come home," said Mercredi. 

Community members are thankful that no homes were lost to the wildfire, Mercredi said. 

"We've been very lucky here, with no structural losses, no real loss of anything other than traditional land."

Those returning home are asked to check in with the volunteer crews stationed at the entrances to the communities to pick up cleaning kits and instructions on how to safely dispose of spoiled foods.

Melton Lizotte

The evacuation was stressful for elders, Mercredi said, but the community was well prepared.

"It's something that we were ready for because of the other communities that have been evacuated sooner than us," he said. "It was very well run, so I'm happy now that people are allowed back."

Members of the Dene Tha' First Nation who live on the Boyer River reserve were also allowed to return home Tuesday. 

An evacuation alert is still in place for Mackenzie County, meaning residents must be ready to leave on short notice.

"We've got to be very careful and we're asking our people to remember that we're still on an evacuation alert," said Mercredi.

The Chuckegg Creek wildfire is now approximately 331,946 hectares in size.