TREENA MIELKE/Rimbey Review
A businessman touched by the devastation at Slave Lake caused by a fire that destroyed hundreds of homes and several businesses has decided to take a hands-on approach to helping out.
Chris Reitz, who co-owns Tundra Electric Ltd. And Rimbey Lighting with Colin Reed, plans to temporarily set up shop at Slave Lake.
Reitz will spend some time at Slave Lake and take some of his staff with him, while Reed and other staff will hold down the fort at Rimbey.
Reed decided to take action after he saw the destruction caused by the fire on television.
“It broke our hearts,” he said. “We definitely wanted to do our part and we saw how Alberta was all coming together. We wanted to get on the bandwagon.”
Reitz would rather help out in the community by using his talent and skill than just send money.
The business partners travelled to Slave Lake June 2 where they met with Norm Olsen from Norm Olsen Electrical Services who has a business in that community. The men spent the day together touring Slave Lake and talking about the best possible way to help out with electrical needs.
Olsen is grateful for the help.
“I was trying to figure out a way to get some help up here,” said Olsen. “I really appreciate them coming. We really are in a bind and it will be good to have some reputable help. It will take a little bit of the load of off us. We’ve been working around the clock.”
Reitz said the devastation the fire left in its wake that he and Reed witnessed while in Slave Lake was shocking.
“I experienced a roller coaster of emotions that I had never felt before,” he said. “For me, the hardest thing was driving by a house and seeing kids playing in the front yard and then seeing, right beside it, kids’ bicycles burned beyond recognition.”
The local businessman recalled how he saw houses that were untouched by the fire beside other houses totally destroyed.
“It made no sense how it (the fire) selectively choose what it choose,” he said, shaking his head slowly.
He said the fire could have been much worse, however, if water bombers had not returned to their base two days before the fire. The fact that the ice had melted off of Slave Lake was another plus, he added.
The people of Slave Lake have banded together and, for the most part, have shown great resilience, he added.
“People still had smiles on their faces and they all seem to be banding together,” he said. “It was really heartwarming.”
Olsen, who has lived in Slave Lake for many years, said he loves the community.
“I love it here and I will never move and hardly anyone I have talked to has plans to move either. The town just keeps growing.”