Officials with the Canadian Red Cross said that to date, $323 million has been donated to support those affected by last year’s devastating fires in Fort McMurray.
An update was provided during a press conference Monday, where officials broke down how the funds have been spent over the past 12 months.
As of this month, 75% of the total has either been spent or committed via direct support, or by supporting community organizations or small businesses, said Conrad Sauvé, president and CEO, Canadian Red Cross.
“The important thing is that the Red Cross did not do this alone,” he said, referring to several other agencies and organizations that have contributed to the relief effort over the past 12 months as well.
“Without them, none of this would have been possible.”
A mass evacuation of Fort McMurray was ordered on May 6th, 2016.
Meanwhile, Sauve said the fires marked the largest wildfire evacuation in Canadian history with more than 80,000 people seeking safety and comfort from across the country, he said. “For every single person affected by the fires, it will be a defining moment in their lives. There will always be a ‘before and after the wildfires of 2016’.”
He added that 13 call centres were set up to help manage 147,000 calls in the days following the disaster.
“We had 40 volunteers on full-time just managing social media on a two-way communication with information going out on a 24-hour basis,” he said.
As to fundraising, Canadians showed their generosity within the first week after the fires, some $50 million was donated to the cause. And thanks to folks registering, officials were able to transfer money to most evacuees’ bank accounts within a few days of being relocated.
“This was the largest and fastest transfer of emergency financial assistance ever – not only in Canada, but in the world,” he said, adding that both the province and the federal g0vernments matched donations, too.
Again, the grand total stands at $323 million. Of that, $189 million came from donations with the remainder coming from matching funds. “To date, the Canadian Red Cross has committed or spent $244 million which is 75 per cent of the total funds.
“In simple terms, we are helping families and individuals in three main ways – through direct assistance, through community organizations and through the support of small businesses,” he said, adding that overall, the recovery process continues to take time. “We need to be there – and we will be there – to accompany this region throughout its recovery,” he said.
Funds spent thus far have gone to things like rent, mortgages, utilities, household goods, food and clothing and transportation for folks to head home after the fire.
“To date, more than 19,000 confidential assessments have been completed between residents and Red Cross caseworkers to help address needs.”
Small business have also needed help, too. “They are critical to the full recovery of the community that is affected.
“To everyone who donated I want to say thank you. Thank you for caring, for giving so generously and for supporting fellow Canadians in their time of need.”