Northern Sunrise FCSS ready to help wildfire victims

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

With fires ravaging almost one million hectares of land in Northern Alberta, many people will be seeking assistance to find resources to help them overcome major losses.

The fires in South Peace News’ readership area burned thousands of acres from Peavine Metis Settlement to the Harmon Valley Area, East Prairie Metis Settlement, across many areas of Big Lakes County and the M.D. of Greenview.

Luckily, there are some programs available to help individuals who have been affected by the blazes, and local Family and Community Support Services are hoping to assist anyone who requires it.

Nampa/Northern Sunrise County FCSS director Amber Houle explains many people in the county have experienced losses that require various assistance, from financial assistance to mental health programs and everything in between.

“We have been making courtesy calls in our area to people who have been affected by the fires,” says Houle.

“We are promoting the disaster recovery program to anyone who may qualify,” she adds.

The Disaster Recovery Program helps to provides financial assistance for uninsurable loss and damage caused by emergencies and disasters. Individuals must access their own insurance options and any other available sources of assistance first. The program can be accessed by visiting

“Our County also recognizes that we don’t have phone numbers for all of our residents,” says Houle.

“We are currently asking residents to provide us with this information for emergency purposes.”

Northern Sunrise County was affected starting on May 5, as the fires spread from southeast of the county to directly east of the hamlet of Reno within a couple of hours. The fire quickly spread through the extremely dry forest, ending up at the South Harmon Valley Road by Saturday. Firefighters worked hard to try to prevent the fire from spreading further west into residential areas, but the kindling-like forest was not controllable. As of May 24, over 108,000 hectares of woodland was destroyed by the wildfire in just 16 days.

The County was fortunate in receiving over 50 mm of rain over the long weekend, providing enough moisture to contain the spread of the fire. Unfortunately, a number of residents had cattle fences destroyed, animal feed burned, homes lost, and various buildings and other assets destroyed by the fire.

“We hope that the Province of Alberta recognizes that additional funding is needed to offset costs that may not be covered through insurance such as fences and feed for livestock,” says Houle.

“We want to remind people not to be bashful reaching out for assistance, this is what we’re here for and we want to help you navigate this incredibly difficult time.”

The Alberta government also set in place a financial assistance program for anyone who was evacuated from their homes, a reality for a number of people from the aforementioned communities. If individuals are displaced from their primary residence for at least seven days as a result of wildfires, they could qualify for a one-time emergency payment of $1,250 per adult, with an additional payment of $500 for each dependent child under 18.

Evacuees can apply for the emergency payment at using an account.

Houle says she and her staff, along with FCSS offices throughout the province, are willing to help people through the application process.

At press time May 26, a province-wide forest area fire ban remains in place, including a ban of all off- highway vehicles.

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