Hundreds of thousands of very concerned people from Alberta, Canada, the United States, and throughout the world watched in horror on May 1 as one of the worst forest fire storms in history ravaged in and around the oil rich northern City of Fort McMurray. As the out-of-control inferno (which they later called ‘The Beast’) suddenly turned on certain areas of the community with such savage force that some of the residents were given only a few moments to evacuate their homes, many with only the clothes on their backs.
When the massive fire continued to grow rapidly and smothered much of the city with raging flames, thick smoke and sparks, the 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray were given the immediate evacuation notice to pack up on their vehicles and head north to the oil camps or east along Highway 63, where emergency shelters and assistance were being quickly arranged on all fronts. Then for many stressful hours, we watched them transfer the patients and staff of the local hospital safely onto planes and buses on their way to Edmonton, where medical facilities were being prepared for their arrival. Those that remained in the fire ravaged community were very well organized, dedicated and determined teams of first responders who battled 24-7 on the ground and in the air to control the helter-skelter unpredictable blaze that was threatening all areas of the city. In the meantime many more emergency personnel and equipment were quickly making their way to the community from throughout Alberta and beyond.
All across the province, the Canadian Red Cross and municipal officials in cities and towns were organizing accommodations for the thousands of Ft. McMurray families who had so suddenly been forced out of their homes. As is and always will be the case in sudden emergencies and a need for care and assistance, ‘the hearts of Alberta’ kicked into full gear with an overwhelming wave of emotion that included fundraisers, special events and so many other acts of kindness right from the heart. While thousands of volunteers came on scene to assist at the evacuation centres across the province, many others opened their homes to the evacuees, and others rushed to gather and deliver all the urgent supplies that would be required to serve an extended stay for the evacuated families and individuals.
As the donations of supplies and helping hands kept coming from countless sources every day, the Canadian Red Cross also set up an immediate ‘Alberta Fires Appeal’ fund, which everyone could support with their kindly donations. As of May 15, that fund had collected over $80,000,000, to which both the provincial and the federal governments have agreed to match the totals of the ongoing campaign. Those still wishing to donate to this vital Ft. McMurray cause are urged to contact the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-418-1111, text ‘Red Cross’ 30333, or visit red cross.ca.
Those very brave firefighters are now battling ‘The Beast’ in Saskatchewan, while hundreds of crews and oil plant workers are moving back into Ft. McMurray to clean up the burnt out areas and buildings and to restart the infrastructure so that everyone will hopefully soon be able to return home. Throughout this horrific tragedy, there has been so much destruction, fear and tears, but there is no doubt that the hardy and determined citizens of Ft. McMurray will pull together and slowly, rebuild their vibrant community and proudly look to the future. There is absolutely no doubt that they will never forget and be forever thankful for the overwhelming support, care and compassion that they have received from the wonderful citizens of our Alberta, Canada and beyond, who should be very proud of their efforts. Have a great week, all of you.