Family flee fire ravaged home

Margaret Leatherand holds up a picture of her sister Janet Parks and her family, who are homeless in Canada after being evacuated from their home due to a forest fire. Picture: Andrew Roe
Margaret Leatherand holds up a picture of her sister Janet Parks and her family, who are homeless in Canada after being evacuated from their home due to a forest fire. Picture: Andrew Roe

A WOMAN watched her home burn to the ground as she was forced to evacuate a town ravaged by forest fires.

Janet Parks, 66, and her family are now living in hotels and evacuations centres across Canada following the blaze which hit the small town of Slave Lake and left its 7,000 residents devastated.

Around 30 years ago Janet, a former Cantley resident, moved to Canada with then-husband Ted, of Dunsville, with their daughter Lyndsay, now 32, and Janet’s older children Julie Chalmers, now 45, and 41-year-old Robert.

Janet’s sister Margaret Leatherland said they loved living in the peaceful Alberta town and were always prepared for the threat of forest fires.

The sister, from The Avenue in Bessacarr, said: “Janet described it to me as being terrible. All she could see was thick, black smoke and ash all over the place.

“They’re used to the alert of forest fires but it’s never been this big before.

“The water from the lake is usually used to put the fires out but this time there were gales about 70 mph which blew all the fire over the lake so nobody could get any water to try and put it out.

“They’ve been put all over the place. My sister and niece are in a hotel somewhere and Ted and his family have been put somewhere else.

“It’s only a small town so people have been devastated by what has happened. My sister had a bag prepared because she was told about the concerns but her house has gone. It’s been ruined.”

Julie also fled from Slave Lake with her mum and teenage daughters Michelle and Jessica, 16 and 19, husband William Karpa, and all had to drive to Westlock, miles from their home.

Julie’s father Jim Chalmers said his ex-wife Janet watched her house go up in flames.

The Rossington resident said: “I spoke to Julie and was absolutely horrified. She said as they were driving away they could see Janet’s home going up in flames, it was devastating.

“About 30 to 40 per cent of Slave Lake has been destroyed by fire. The pictures on the internet are horrifying.

“I have never seen anything like it. My son Robert doesn’t live there anymore because he works in Syria so he called me to tell me the family were okay.

“They don’t know what is going to happen now, they just have to sit and wait for news day-by-day.”