It’s been one year since a wildfire roared through Slave Lake, Alberta. Fuelled by dry grass and brush, then propelled by intense winds, the fire moved quickly and consumed everything along its path, including 441 homes, businesses and government buildings in the town and surrounding area.

When the smoke cleared, entire neighbourhoods in Slave Lake had been levelled. The inferno left only foundations and the burned hulks of cars and trucks in some areas.

In terms of cost, the fire is second only to the 1998 ice storm that hit Ontario and Quebec. Insurance companies estimate the damage at $742 million. The Alberta government contributed another $289 million to build temporary shelters for those who lost their homes, and to beef up fire safety in the area.

As the area marks the first year of the rebuilding effort, the landscape still bears scars from the fire. Beside new homes rising in the devastated neighbourhoods, there are the foundations of homes untouched since the inferno. Empty lots are littered with charred debris, hunks of twisted metal, and for sale signs. 

Many who lost their homes are not coming back.

Others, staying in temporary homes provided by the province, look out on a view of blackened forest. One of the two trailer home communities sits directly on the path the fire took into the town. But it’s a view they may not have to wake up to much longer. Some of the new houses are complete and families are starting to move out of the trailers and back into permanent homes.

On the eve of the one year anniversary, the CBC’s Terry Reith travelled to Slave Lake. The gallery at the top of this page shows the images he captured of a community that is rebuilding.

The fire

The gallery below shows images of the fire that devastated the community of Slave Lake on May 15, 2011.