Local fire responders were given special thanks for assisting in the massive wildfire that swept the Fort McMurray area in May.
Sucker Creek Fire Tack Crew received their medallions and certificates of thanks from the provincial government at a brief ceremony hosted by the Sucker Creek First Nation council Nov. 16.
Packages were presented to Sucker Creek Fire Tack crew leader Vernon Willier, sub leader Jeffrey Willier, and members Carl Capot, Rheal Cardinal, and Darrell Ominayak.
Andrid Willier, Brayton Willier, Tyler Willier, Johnny Calliou, Dustin Cardinal, Bradley Willier, Murraw Willier and Peter Joe Badger were absent.
Members were honoured the same day a major reception was held in Fort McMurray to thank countless people and agencies for battling the blazes in the city and in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
“The incredible work everyone did in such difficult conditions has not gone unnoticed,” states a message from Premier Rachel Notley read by Councillor Sandy Willier for Chief Jim Badger who was absent.
“On behalf of the Government of Alberta, please accept our deepest and sincerest thanks for going above and beyond in the face of this unprecedented natural disaster.
“While there is still a lot of work ahead of us, with the support and inspiration from Albertans like you, we will make these communities home again.”
This past May the province battled one of the worst disasters in the history when the Wood Buffalo fire displaced almost 90,000 residents.
“From the early hours of the emergency, through the months of rebuilding and recovery, the strength of our communities and people have exemplified the spirit of Alberta,” states the message from Notley.
Another band council member thanked the crew.
“We congratulate you for being the front liners in Fort McMurray and we never know when disaster will hit our community and they will be here to help us,” Councillor Steve Willier says.
Sucker Creek Fire Tack Crew serves with Sucker Creek Holdings Ltd. under contract with Alberta Forestry.
“It’s great that they are recognized because they put their health at risk,” says Vivian Callio-Willier, economic development and human resources director.
The crew was back in service after an absence of about two years, she noted. Crew members were in the wildfire on May 1-16, June 3-18, and June 29 to July 2.
“We felt we did a good job,” crew leader Vernon Willier says.
“We were very capable and we were happy to help in that situation.”
During the first time, they battled the blaze in the north part of the city and helped people get out.
“It was tough physically,” Willier says.
“We worked 12-14 hours a day.”
One firefighter expreses the feeling in the heart of those who served.
“It was tough to see everybody go through that situation,” says sub leader Jeffrey Willier, who also helped in the wildfire in Slave Lake in 2011.
Crews from other local First Nations also responded to the call.
Fire Tack Crew from East Prairie Metis Settlement was led by crew leader Raymond Super- nault, says Jessica Big Charles, administrative assistant for East Prairie.
Medallions and certificates were also given to crew members Warren Anderson, Travis Bartlett, Cory Bellerose, Dalen Bellerose, Kyle Bellerose, Quentin Bell- erose, Bruce Cunning- ham, Alex Desjarlais, Nathaniel Desjarlais, Sheldon Desjarlais, Shawn Dumont, Garry Emard, Kelly Giroux, Thomas Giroux, Charles Haggerty, Devorie Howse, Garret Howse, Clarence John, River John, Rodney Lalonde, Justin L’Hirondelle, Zachary L’Hirondelle, Steven Laboucan, Patrick Patenaude, Romeo Patenaude, Albert Payou, Ryan Smith, George Tompkins, and Jerry Willier.
Whitefish Lake First Nation had four crews as follows:
-Crew leader Brian Laboucan, sub leader Andre Laboucan, Stevie Orr-Nahachick, Kelsey Grey, Cally Laboucan, Waylon Laboucan, Simon Quintal, and Lance Grey.
-Crew leader Jarod Grey, sub leader Brendan Laboucan, Terrell Laboucan, Clint Grey, Preston Grey, Evan Noskiye, Kelvin Gaudete, and Glen Laboucan.
-Crew leader Leslie Auger, sub leader Davey Tallman Jr., Jamie Grey, Robert Laboucan, Dean Letendre, Laurella Sawan, Boyce Weesemat and Ryan Whitehead.
-Crew leader Gerald Laboucan, sub leader Harold Gladue, Tyler Grey, Edward Gladue, Kim Tallman, Jeff Gladue, Shawn Laboucan and Noah Nahachick.
High Prairie Volunteer Fire Department sent four members, although no packages were given.
Lt. Mike Caron, Wade Fjeld, Jake Matula, and Joe Villa served for three days, says fire chief Ken Melynk.
Big Lakes County did not require any volunteers although the department was on standby, says fire chief Leo Tobin.
Fire Tack Crews from Driftpile First Nation also served in the wildfire, although no names were provided.