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High Level café serving comfort to locals in time of crisis

Firefighters and other emergency workers from the Grande Prairie area are being served a slice of comfort as they help deal with the wildfire near High Level. Traditions Garden Café owner Sherry Matthews has been a resident of the town for nearly 20 years but she says she never imagined her business would become a vital hub for the community.

“Didn’t think it would be that much of an interruption, so my husband installed a generator. We just fired it up and once we realized we could do this we just gave them a call and said, ‘hey, we have power, what can we do?'”

Grande Prairie area firefighters at Traditions Garden Cafe in High Level, Alberta (Supplied by Sherry Matthews)

City of Grande Prairie and County of Grande Prairie fire service members are among the nearly 600 emergency personnel members on the ground in the area. Matthews says she is doing her best, along with her husband, to get them much needed energy.

“Every second day we send out 200 meals to the firefighters, and the other day that we aren’t cooking for the firefighters we are cooking for the command centre.”

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Matthews says it’s the situation local emergency personnel find themselves in that made her and her husband decide to keep their doors open despite a wildfire burning just three kilometres away.

“Our fire department in our town is pretty well, I dunno, I’d say 80 percent volunteer. If they’re volunteering their time, away from their family and their resources, we gotta get going to and just do what we can do,” Matthews argues.

She adds her café isn’t alone in trying to keep both the emergency responders spirits up and stomachs full.

“Lots of local businesses and residents have called us and e-transferred us money to say, ‘let them come in and buy drinks for free.””

Residents and other business owners have sent Matthews nearly $2,000 since the evacuation order was issued more than a week ago.

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