Witnessing the devastation: William and Kate are shown around Slave Lake by a group including the town’s mayor after making an unscheduled stop
at the town which was devastated by fire
By Rebecca English
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made an unscheduled visit today to a town almost entirely reduced to ashes by forest fires less than two months ago.
Some 40 per cent of Slave Lake in Northern Alberta was razed when ground when it was hit by a wildfire on May 15.
Fortunately there were no deaths in the town, named after the First Nations People there known as the Slavey.
Gutted: The Royal couple examine the remains of a burnt out car destroyed during May’s fire
Destroyed: Prince William looks at the twisted remains of a car that was caught in the fire
Wreckage: William and Kate examine a piece of damaged metal from the fire with Ed Stelmech (left) and City Reeve Denny Garratt
But the damage was extensive and forced the complete evacuation of Slave Lake’s 7,000 residents – the largest such displacement in the province’s history.
The inferno began as a forest fire 15 kilometers outside town. Firefighters battled to keep in under control and had thought they were winning the fight when the wind turned violent and gusts of up to 100 km per hour whipsawed glowing embers overhead and on to homes and businesses which quickly ignited.
Most of the destruction happened in the south-eastern section of town – where half the homes were consumed by flames – as well as the mall, town hall and many downtown businesses.
Almost all 7,000 residents were evacuated from the town, with hundreds going to evacuation shelters in nearby towns including Edmonton.
The Duke and Duchess flew into the town on Wednesday on a government Challenger jet.
The couple stepped off their jet and were greeted by a small line of dignitaries.
Fans used their cameras to capture their memories of the day, while Kate appeared to take something from one member of the crowd
Kate beams as she meets with hundreds of well-wishers in Slave Lake
William greets some of the hundreds of people who turned out in Slave Lake today
Fans of all ages: The Duchess talks with an elderly lady in her wheelchair, while William’s younger supporters gave him this pink cuddly toy
Prince William salutes the crowd that had gathered to see him and his wife in the town
Kate was wearing the same navy designer blazer she wore to depart the UK, her favoured pair of skin tight jeans and Pied A Terre black wedges with a cream ruffled chiffon shirt. William was smart but casual in jeans and a blazer.
The couple immediately headed off in a mini bus to see the devastation first hand and meet with displaced residents.
The request to tour the devastated town came directly from the royal couple, said Kevin MacLeod, Canadian secretary to the Queen.
But it was kept under wraps until the last minute to ensure their presence wouldn’t disrupt any relief efforts in the region.
‘It wasn’t a last-minute decision,’ he said. ‘Their overwhelming concern was that they did not want a public announcement early on for fear that it would somehow detract from those people who are now putting in place all the reconstruction efforts.’
The Duke and Duchess meet with a group of residents whose homes were destroyed in the fire
Two residents of Slave Lake welcome Prince William and his wife to their town
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