A reception centre for people fleeing wildfires in the Northwest Territories was set up at the G.H. Dawe Community Centre on Thursday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Red Deer has welcomed nearly 800 evacuees from Northwest Territories

Nearly 800 people who were evacuated from the Northwest Territories due to raging wildfires have made their way to the City of Red Deer.

The city is able to welcome as many as 1,000 people at the reception centre in the G.H. Dawe Community Centre, where they have been provided assistance with lodging, meals, medical and pet care support.

Since the reception centre opened last Thursday, the city has welcomed 798 evacuees, partnered with 20 restaurants to provide 10,048 meal vouchers, worked with 22 hotels to co-ordinate 3,500 nights at hotels, and distributed 664 pounds of pet food for evacuated pets through the Central Alberta Humane Society.

The centre was initially operating for 24 hours, but it began operating from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday.

“The Reception Centre is where we register evacuees, provide lodging and meal vouchers, and to connect them with services they need while being away from home,” said Carol Lind, emergency management co-ordinator.

“So far we have registered approximately 800 individuals, and we have capacity to continue to accept new evacuees.”

The reception centre’s Emergency Support Services Team is now seeking additional restaurants to participate in the food voucher program.

Evacuees are provided food vouchers to be used at participating restaurants, which businesses then submit to recover their costs. Voucher values are $9.20 for breakfast, $11.60 for lunch and $20.75 for dinner, per person.

Businesses interested in participating in the program are asked to email EOC.ESS@reddeer.ca. More information on direct billing cost recovery can be provided to participating restaurants.

The Emergency Support Services Team is not accepting food donations from the public.

The City of Red Deer is able to welcome as many as 1,000 evacuees from Northwest Territories. Currently, Yellowknife and surrounding neighbourhoods have been mostly emptied as firefighters battle a wildfire that is about 15 kilometres away from the Northwest Territories’ capital city.

An evacuation order was issued on Wednesday night for the city of 20,000 people – most residents complied with a departure deadline of Friday at noon.

Red Deerians looking to support evacuees can do so by donating to the Canadian Red Cross or Central Alberta Humane Society (to support evacuees with pets). Both of these organizations are accepting monetary donations only.

Donations to the Red Cross can be made either online at www.redcross.ca or at the local Red Cross Office (105 – 5301 43 St.). To donate to the Central Alberta Humane Society, visit www.cahumane.com.

For more information, visit www.reddeer.ca/evacuees.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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