Royal Baby Watch

William, Kate Pay Emotional Visit to Town Devastated by Fire

Celebrity News Jul. 7, 2011 AT 8:29AM
William, Kate Pay Emotional Visit to Town Devastated by Fire Credit: Mark Large - Pool/Getty

The Duke and Duchess, doing good.

On Wednesday, in the midst of their jam-packed North American tour, Prince William and Duchess Kate paid an unscheduled visit to Slave Lake. Located in Northern Alberta, Canada, the town of 7,000 was nearly razed to the ground by a devastating May 15 wildfire. Although there were thankfully no deaths in the disaster -- Slave Lake was completely evacuated -- an astonishing 40 percent of the town (homes, the town hall, downtown businesses, a shopping mall) were destroyed.

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William and Kate, both 29, toured Slave Lake for an hour and a half for the surprise visit. "It wasn't a last minute decision," explains Kevin MacLeod, Canadian secretary to the Queen. "Their overwhelming concern was that they did not want a public announcement early on for fear that it would somehow detract from those people who are now putting in place all the reconstruction efforts."

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Braving the fierce sunshine and heat, most of Slave Lake's denizens greeted the royals with flowers, balloons and posters ("We love you for coming," and "Welcome Will and Kate".)

One local, 28-year-old Maria Sharpe, showed Willam and Kate a special photo -- one of the only things salvaged from her destroyed home -- taken on the day of the royal wedding, when she and her pals threw a party to celebrate the nuptials.

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"This picture is special to me because it is a reminder of my home," Sharpe told Us Weekly. "It was an awful thing to happen, but in some ways it turned the community into a family. And being gathered here with everyone today to meet Kate and William to welcome them here brings us even closer."

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"Having Kate and William take time out of their schedule to come here is such a boost for this community," added Denise Camarneiro, a 40-year-old married mother of two, whose home burned down in the blaze.

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She had high praise for the Duke and and Duchess. "They seem very compassionate," Camarneiro said. "Kate," she added, "Reminds me a lot of Diana."

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