Sunday, May 15, 2011

Slave Lake is burning!

The town hall in Slave Lake, Alta., goes up in flames.
It was easy to hear the frustration in T.J. Foster’s voice through the telephone line from Edmonton on Sunday night.
There he was, a perfectly capable 18-year-old (he’ll turn 19 on May 28) who was unable to help as at least part of his hometown of Slave Lake, Alta., was being consumed by wildfires.
“Forty per cent of Slave Lake is burned now,” said Foster, a forward with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings. “It’s spread all the way around it, and they can’t get out.”
(Shortly after our conversation, CTV News, which had a crew on the ground there, was reporting via Twitter that the “northern half of Slave Lake has burned down.”)
Foster spent most of Sunday communicating with family members in Slave Lake. His parents, one sister and one brother were still there, along with his paternal grandfather. His maternal grandmother and grandfather had left town earlier.
Foster’s understand when I spoke to him at about 8:45 p.m. PT was that the family’s home was in great danger.
“I think where my parents live is burning right now,” he said. “It’s really windy.”
A few minutes after our conversation, Foster tweeted: “House is still good for now I guess.”
He had heard that the arena, hospital, school and town hall had all burned down.
As he put it: “Main Street is just gone.”
The arena, he said, was an old one but was undergoing extensive renovations.
Foster said he still could remember the summer of 2003 when the B.C. Interior had such a hot time with wildfires. He was at a hockey school in Penticton at the time, and the memories have come roaring back of late.
Foster, who has graduated from high school, is just back from Germany where he put up nine points in four games as Team Canada placed 13th at the 2011 World Under-19 Floorball Championship.
And now he’s hoping to get back to his hometown as soon as he can.
“They need volunteers to firefight so I was thinking whenever the wind calms down to drive back up there, get some friends and try to help out,” he said.
Under normal conditions, he tries to get home every second weekend to see his family, “go fishing . . . or whatever.”
His next trip home, then, will have a whole lot more urgency to it.
Foster was born and raised in Slave Lake. He moved to Edmonton, actually to Spruce Grove, at the age of 13 in order to further his hockey career.
He is coming off his best season, having put up 54 points, including 25 goals, in 66 games with the Oil Kings. In 201 regular-season games, he has 107 points, including 44 goals.
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