FORT MCMURRAY—A wildfire surpassing 10,000 hectares in Northern Alberta has forced tens of thousands of Fort McMurray residents to flee. With the city under an evacuation order, over 1,600 homes and buildings have already been lost, with authorities saying the situation could worsen.
“I’m in a state of shock,” said Tamara Wolfe, who is certain her home in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood area perished. “I had 40 years of stuff in that house, and family memories, that’s the hardest part. Things are replaceable, but not everything is replaceable,” she told CBC.
Yesterday evening it took her family eight hours to reach a nearby evacuation camp, before moving to Edmonton this morning.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is in Fort McMurray as of this afternoon, meeting with emergency officials. Evacuees from Fort McMurray continue to come through the Edmonton International Airport, while social media images show pictures of gas stations rationing fuel, and convenience stores emptied of food.
Dozens and dozens of cars have been abandoned along highway 63 as residents made their escape. There was little time to prepare and many vehicles ran out of fuel because of growing traffic gridlocks, so drivers conserved reserves by stopping on highway shoulders throughout the night.
Abraham Shepherd, President of CGR, urges Canadians to step forward: “As we mobilize our efforts across Canada, we’re appealing to good conscience Canadians to help us respond with aid to residents of Fort McMurray.”
Although as of now there have been no reports of fatalities or injuries, “The worst of the fire is not over,” said Bernie Schmitte, manager of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “We’re still faced with very high temperatures, low relative humidity and some strong winds.”
Mayor Melissa Blake said her city is strong and remembers Slave Lake, a community devastated by wildfires in 2011. “We will hope to follow in the shadow of Slave Lake in our perseverance and resolve,” said Blake. “And as we look to the future, this is still a place of incredible strength, resiliency and vibrancy.”
Canadian Global Response is a member of the NGO Council of Alberta, which is committed to assisting disaster victims in the province. Our response will depend on requests from the government and RCMP as emergency crew are already on ground, with out-of-province water bombers and firefighters soon arriving.
As needs are currently being assessed to identify a number of critical areas that require assistance, we are requesting potential volunteers to contact the office by email or phone. Donations are also needed to meet needs, with disaster recovery teams being sent as fires subside and damage is assessed. Our American partners are also requesting volunteers to join our CGR teams to help be part of the clean-up process.
Further information about disaster relief efforts in Fort McMurray will be made available as soon as possible. Thank you for also considering donating towards response efforts.
Anyone wishing to respond can help by donating to CGR’s disaster relief efforts in Fort McMurray through the donation button below, or selecting other giving options on our donation page.
DONATE TO FORT MCMURRAY DISASTER RELIEF
Photos: Jason Woodhead / Fort McMurray, AB / May 4, 2016 / CC license, Flickr
Mapbox / Municipality of Wood Buffalo / May 4, 2016 / The Canadian Press