Rural communities opening farms and homes to wildfire evacuees

Rural communities opening farms and homes to wildfire evacuees
Aug 22, 2023

People in Alberta and B.C. are providing families with a place to stay

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Top photo: Wildfire burning in Northwest Territories (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press photo).

Members of Canada’s ag community are opening their farms and homes to people escaping wildfires.

In Alberta, for example, about 40 people from the Northwest Territories are waiting out the wildfires at Jane Groenwegen’s ranch near High River, Alta.

Groenwegen, who served as an N.W.T. MLA from 1995 to 2015, normally lives in Hay River, N.W.T, but made the journey to her ranch during the evacuations.

Kevin Wallington and his family are among those staying at Groenwegen’s ranch. He is also helping others who are coming and going.

This sense of community will last far beyond the wildfires, he said.

“I think there’s going to be friendships and relationships forged with people that have walked through difficult things,” he told CBC. “We have people that have saved people’s lives – that’s the truth of the matter. They were able to pull them from burning vehicles. They were able to pick them up on the highway when there was utter chaos. Those are formative experiences for everybody.”

Lone Sorensen evacuated her home in Yellowknife, N.W.T. and too ended up at Groenwegen’s property.

“Had a great sleep in High River – so very grateful to (Jane Groenwegen), Rosie Wallington and Kevin Wallington for the warm and caring hospitality,” she said in a Facebook post.

At least one family living in a rural B.C. community is also helping wildfire evacuees.

The Ouilette family who live on a farm in the North Okanagan, are housing four families, a GiveSendGo fundraising page says.

The evacuees include 13 children and 32 goats.

Any money raised will do directly to supporting the families and livestock, the fundraiser says.

“Any amount that can be donated to help with the costs associated with hosting this large group, not to mention the animals that need food, would be greatly appreciated,” the fundraising campaign created by Theresa Boyle says.

So far, $407 has been raised for the families. has contacted the Ouilette family for comment.

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