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Like most of you I watched in safety as the good people of Fort McMurray lost theirs.
Dash cam footage showed trees spontaneously combust, animals fleeing the forest, cars moving to the other side of the road to escape the heat of hellfire unleashed on this remote Alberta city. The striking images of a woman leading her horses to safety, of dark smoke shot through with glowing embers, of a cloud so colossal it created its own wind, weather and lightening, will be indelibly printed on our minds for decades.
As everyone knows Fort McMurray is an oil town, essentially the base of operations for the various Oil Sands projects that drive a good percentage of employment not only for Alberta, but for many folks in Canada who come here to find good jobs.
Many of my friends and family rely on the resource industry largely driven by this place, it’s the birthplace of my wife. I’ve been up there to work with the community and I can tell you this: you won’t find a warmer, more welcoming group of people anywhere.
To watch this community in crisis, losing homes, pets, safety and stability has been heart wrenching.
So it was with consternation that I saw those posts on social media begin to appear. You know the type.
“Karma,” they said, seeming to delight in the suffering of our neighbours.
“That’s climate change for you,” was another line of thinking making it’s way across our feeds.
“It’s that Rachel Notley’s fault!” read another.
Yup. In a situation where our friends, family and fellow citizens were busy coming together, the safe and seemingly entitled where busy breaking us apart.
There is a time and place for political discourse, commentary and (even tasteless) opinions, but it is classless indeed to do it in the very midst of a tragedy.
My dismay was soon replaced by pride.
Alberta came together. Indigenous communities surrounding Fort Mac opened their homes and halls to the refugees of the wildfire. Food and water freely shared; fuel for vehicles given. All over social media folks began to mobilize with their cities, towns, churches, communities and cultural groups. Within days tens of millions of dollars were raised, much needed goods purchased and donated, and fundraisers planned for the days to come.
First responders worked and still work tirelessly doing incredible, and yes, heroic work. Media reports gave us something to cheer for as we learned there were no known casualties in the evacuation of over 80,000 souls – a seeming miracle in itself. It’s important to note that up in Ft McMurray you’ve likely had certified safety training of some sort or another. The town knew how to respond and the results showed.
This event, while giving some the opportunity to behave poorly, has overwhelmingly brought out the best in everyone else.
Not to wax rhapsodic, but here in Alberta we take care of each other. And that’s not just a nice thought, it’s a way of life. Sometimes we forget, sometimes we don’t see each other’s need, but when it’s in our scope, we do what needs to be done to raise each other up.
The fires are still burning, there are more to come this Alberta summer. We have already been offered remarkable levels of support from across Canada and even internationally. We are grateful- and we’re ready for what comes next.
As I said the first sleepless night of this disaster:
The flames in the darkness may be bright, but our hearts burn brighter still.
That’s my Alberta.
(From the Edmonton Journal, http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/how-yiou-can-help-the-evacuees-from-the-fort-mcmurray-wildfires )
As tens of thousands of evacuees fled Fort McMurray, numerous private companies and municipalities are pitching in to help with the huge wildfire and its aftermath. Here’s what is available for evacuees:
All evacuees should register with the Red Cross by calling 1-888-350-6070 or in person at a reception centre, including:
Lac La Biche Bold Centre at 8702 91 Ave. in Lac La Biche, approximately 290 km south of Fort McMurray.
Wapasu Creek Lodge, 47 km east of Highway 63 at Kilometre 42 on Canterra Road, approximately 40 km northeast of Fort McMurray.
Suncore Firebag Village, take Highway 63 to Suncore exit, follow signs and staff will direct you, approximately 21 km north of Fort McMurray.
Horizon North Blacksand Lodge, travel north on Highway 63 for 28 km and turn left onto Voyager Road, turn left again onto Highway 63 West Service Road heading south. Drive four-and-a-half kilometres to Super Test Hill, turn right onto Petro Canada Road and drive five kilometres until you reach a ‘Y’ intersection. Turn left at the ‘Y’ and continue two kilometres, the lodge is on the right.
Edmonton Northlands, Halls A and D, at 7515 118 Avenue in Edmonton.
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) Residence Tower at 151 Doctor Carpenter Circle in Calgary.
Athabasca Regional Multiplex at 2 University Drive in Athabasca.
Information and updates
For updates, go to the Alberta Emergency Alert website at http://www.emergencyalert.alberta.ca or follow them on twitter @AB_EmergAlert
Use the Pulse Wood Buffalo Call Line at 780-743-7000 or follow @RMWoodBuffalo on twitter for 24-hour information and updates from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. A trained dispatcher will answer every call, and if they don’t have specific information immediately available they will return requests within 48 hours. Long distance charges may apply.
Evacuees seeking information and assistance can direct inquiries to the Alberta Red Cross at 1-888-350-6070.
For information on road conditions and closures in Alberta, go to http://www.511.alberta.ca, call 511 or follow @511Alberta
Emergency fuel stations offering gas and diesel have been set up at rest areas along Highway 63 approximately 60 km south of Fort McMurray at Kilometre 186, 100 km south of Fort McMurray at Mariana Lakes at Kilometre 130, and 165 km south of Fort McMurray at Kilometre 85. Quantities are limited and drivers will only be given enough fuel to make the trip to the next fuel centre.
Contact the Edmonton Food Bank at 780-425-4190 and identify yourself as a wildfire evacuee for help accessing food.
Kinnikinnick Fresh at 10940 120 St. is offering gluten-free food and $50 vouchers to Fort McMurray evacuees with celiac disease.
Edmontonians and evacuees are invited to a pancake breakfast in Churchill Square in Edmonton on Friday between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. The breakfast is free for evacuees and $5 for city residents. All money raised will be donated to the Red Cross.
The Pint Public House Edmonton locations at 10125 109 St. and 8032 104 St. are offering a free meal for evacuees with Fort McMurray ID for the rest of the week. Choose any one item off the menu between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. or between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Block 1912 at 10361 82 Ave. is offering a free scoop of gelato and a coffee for Fort McMurray evacuees.
Chianti Cafe & Restaurant at 10501 82 Ave. is offering a free half-size salad or soup, any one of their Pasta Creations and a non-alcoholic beverage for Fort McMurray residents with ID.
O’Byrne’s Irish Pub at 10616 82 Ave. is offering a free pint of beer and a meal for Fort McMurray evacuees who bring ID with their address.
Naan-O-Licious at 10331 82 Ave. is offering free biryani for evacuees. Call ahead at 780-705-5570 to let them know how many portions you need.
Earls Edmonton locations including 11830 Jasper Ave., 8629 112 St., 4250 Calgary Trail, 13330 50 St., 9961 170 St. and 1505 99 St. is offering any evacuees with a government issued ID with their Fort McMurray address a free sandwich and drink.
Padmanadi Vegeterian Restaurant at 10740 101 St. is offering free lunch or dinner to evacuees.
On The Rocks at 11740 Jasper Avenue is offering a free meal and a drink for evacuees with a Fort McMurray ID.
Caffrey’s In the Park in Sherwood Park at 99 Wye Road is offering a free meal for evacuees.
Delux Burger Bar at 9682 142 St. and 14111 23 Ave. is offering evacuees a free burger and drink.
Sandwich and Sons at 10184 104 St. and 13119 156 St. is offering a free sandwich for evacuees with a Fort McMurray ID.
The Bhartiya Cultural Society of Alberta at 9507 39 Ave. is offering free vegetarian meals to evacuees.
Moxie’s Grill and Bar at 10628 Kingsway Avenue is offering a free entree and drink to evacuees with Fort McMurray ID.
Mary Brown’s locations at 11358 104 Ave. and 14969 Stony Plain Road are offering a free meal to Fort McMurray evacuees with ID.
Al Rashid Mosque is opening their doors for evacuees in need of a place to stay at 13070 113 St. Please contact them at 780-451-6694 for information.
Airbnb has activated their Disaster Response Tool, waiving all fees so those with residences available to evacuees can post their listing for free. Hosts offering their spaces through Airbnb will still have the protections guaranteed by the service for regular short-term vacation rentals.
The Guru Nanak Sikh Society has compiled a list of dozens of spare bedrooms, basement suites and motel rooms available free of charge for Fort McMurray evacuees offered by members of their congregation. Those with room available or evacuees in need of a place to stay in Edmonton can call Arundeep Sandhu at 780-935-2786.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is keeping a list of Edmonton area hotels offering a compassionate rate for evacuees. Go to http://www.rmwb.ca for details.
Alberta Realtors are posting available housing on their Facebook page, “REALTORS Support Fort McMurray.”
All four YMCA locations in Edmonton are open to Wood Buffalo evacuees who can access drop-in facilities and showers, including the Don Wheaton YMCA at 10211 102 Ave., Jamie Platz YMA at 7121 178 St., Castle Downs YMCA at 11510 153 Ave. and the William Lutzky YMCA at 1975 111 St.
The Fraser Community League at 14720 21 St. is offering itself as a well-stocked relief centre for evacuees entering Edmonton from the northeast. Fort McMurray evacuees are invited to stop in for food, supplies and first aid while community league members are opening up their homes for showers.
Insurance and financial assistance
Displaced residents should get in touch with their personal banking institutions for information on special accommodations and resources being made available for those evacuated.
Evacuees should keep all receipts for food, accommodations and other evacuation related expenses for possible reimbursement.
Those who have suffered property loss should first contact their insurance provider for advice and information. You may be entitled to living expenses.
Those unable to contact their insurance provider can reach out to the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s consumer information line at 1-844-227-5422 or by email at FortMacFire@ibc.ca
Any evacuees in need of family and social support can contact Alberta Supports at 1-877-644-9992 for information on social benefit programs.Any evacuees in need of family and social support can contact Alberta Supports at 1-877-644-9992 for information on social benefit programs.
Evacuees may be eligible for the Emergency Needs Allowance to help cover unaffordable short-term, unforeseeable emergency expenses. If you are not already an Income Support client, you can get more information at an Alberta Works Centre. Contact them by calling 1-866-644-5135 or go to www.humanservices.alberta.ca/ABWCentres
Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) clients who have been receiving benefits by cheque who are now displaced by northern Alberta wildfires should contact the Athabasca AISH office at 780-675-6853.
Those receiving Income Support benefits by cheque who have been evacuated from their homes should call the 24-hour Income Support Contact Centre at 1-866-644-5135 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Families or service providers needing assistance for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) who are receiving PDD support through the province should contact the PDD Program Branch at 780-427-1177 ext. 3 or call Disability Services at 780-415-2466.
If you have a pet missing or left behind in Fort McMurray, call 780-762-3636 and staff will register your information and provide assistance when possible. Long distance charges may apply.
The Companion Animal Welfare Society can provide temporary care for pets including cats, dogs and small animals including reptiles. Contact them by phone at 1-888-460-4045 or email email@example.com
The Edmonton Humane Society can accept found animals without owners. Contact them at 780-471-1774 or visit them at 13620 163 St.
Champion Pet Foods at 11403 186 St. is offering free cat and dog food for Fort McMurray evacuees.
Pets are welcome to stay with their owners at the Edmonton Northlands Reception Centre at 7515 118 Ave.
E&E Kennels is offering free boarding services for dogs, cats and small pets at their #12 Boulder Blvd location in Stony Plain. Contact them at 780-963-8173 for details.
Large animal owners can contact the Alberta Equestrian Federation at 1-877-463-6233 for help.
If you are in distress, call the Distress Line 780-482-4357 within Edmonton, those outside can reach the Rural Distress Line at 1-800-232-7288.
Boyle Street Community Services at 10116 105 Avenue and The Mustard Seed Society, with locations at 10635 96 St. and 10568 114 St., is offering counselling, clothing and hot meals to fire evacuees.
For non emergency health advice, including information on healthcare options, contact Health Link by dialling 811.
For mental health support, contact Alberta’s 24-hour Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
Families evacuated who have children with medical needs can contact Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta at 780-439-5437 for help arranging housing and care.
Children’s Autism Services of Edmonton is offering respite care and supervised safe play space at the Maier Centre at 17451 103 Ave. for autistic children and children with other special needs while parents plan their next steps. Call 780-495-9235 and ask for Kelsey Penney.
Mint Health + Drugs locations across Alberta are offering free emergency medicine for evacuees who left their medication behind. There are eight locations, including one in Edmonton at 10611 101 St. Call 780-757-1030 or your local location for information.
Inclusion Alberta is reaching out to persons with developmental disabilities displaced by fires in northern Alberta looking for support or accommodation. Contact them by calling 780-451-3055 ext. 400.
Urban Vision and Optometrists at 15957 97 St. is offering a free pair of prescription glasses to evacuees who either lost or damaged theirs. Call 780-760-1268 for more information.
The Southwest Family Dental Clinic at 1719 Towne Centre Blvd in Edmonton is offering free emergency dental care for evacuees in need. Contact them at 780-435-5515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce is offering complimentary office space to businesses displaced by wildfires in the Wood Buffalo region at their World Trade Centre Edmonton building at 9990 Jasper Avenue. To book space, email email@example.com or call 780-426-4620.
Regus is opening their fully-serviced business lounges from Manitoba to British Columbia to assist business professionals displaced by Alberta wildfires. To find a local centre, go to www.regus.ca
The U-Haul Company of Northern Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Edmonton are all offering 30 days of free self-storage and U-Box container use for people evacuated by wildfires who need to store personal items. Contact a local U-Haul branch for information.
StorageMart is donating a free month of storage in Edmonton for evacuees. Call 877-786-7243 for information.
Class A Property Group has warehouse space available in the Harvest Industrial Park in Leduc. Fort McMurray Evacuees can contact the Lizotte and Associates Real Estate office at 780-488-0888 or contact Casey Bond on her cell phone at 780-221-6418 for free storage.
The City of Edmonton is offering free admission to all city-owned attractions and facilities to evacuees, including the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the Muttart Conservatory, the John Janzen Nature Centre and any City of Edmonton recreation facility. For more information, dial 311.
The Telus World of Science at 11211 142 St. is offering free admission for evacuee families until May 11.
Allstars Playland at 9510 12 Ave. is offering free admission to wildfire evacuee families until Sunday.
The Grande Prairie Public Library is making library cards available to displaced Albertans. Contact them at 780-532-3580 or go to www.gpl.ca
Players from the Edmonton Eskimos football team, the Eskimos Cheer Team and team mascots will be visiting evacuees housed at the Edmonton Northlands reception centre on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m.
The Devonian Botanic Garden in Highway 60, five kilometres north of Devon, is offering free admission for Fort McMurray evacuees during the 2016 season. For more information, call 780-987-3054 or visit www.devonian.ualberta.ca
Fountain Tire at 8550 Yellowhead Trail is offering to repair tires damaged in the Fort McMurray evacuation free of charge.
Est-elle Academy of Hair Design at 8004 Gateway Boulevard is offering a shampoo and blow out service with a scalp massage for evacuees for the rest of the week. Contact them at 780-432-7577.
The Beauty Parlour, located on the second floor at 10011 82 Ave., is offering a free shampoo and blowout for evacuees with a Fort McMurray ID until May 12. To book an appointment, call 780-429-4242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Echo Hair Design at #205 8135 102 St. is offering a free hair cleanse and style to evacuees. Contact them at 780-469-3246 or email email@example.com to book an appointment.
K.C Photography is offering free family photo shoots to evacuees. Contact them at 780-691-4136 for details. Many other local photographers are posting similar offers on their Facebook page, “Fort McMurray Photo Dates/Locations.”
The Edmonton Wedding Gallery and Bridal Plus Boutique at 10404 68 Ave. is offering a 50% discount for brides who have lost their wedding gowns during the northern Alberta wildfires. Contact them at 780-486-2575.
Anytime Fitness Old Strathcona at 10469 80 Ave. is opening their gyms for evacuees to use while they are in Edmonton.
The Celtic Ceilidh Dance Academy at 6325 Gateway Boulevard is offering free Highland and Irish dance classes for evacuees. Contact them at 780-490-4544 for details.