The outpouring of support and generosity that we have seen from Albertans in the last week has been nothing short of overwhelming.
The Fort McMurray wildfires devastated the northern Alberta city and forced the evacuation of more than 88,000 people from the area in a matter of hours. In the days following the mass evacuation a convoy was also arranged to get residents out of the area in an orderly manner.
The RCMP was escorting vehicle packages of 50 vehicles at a time, south through the city on Hwy. 63, a distance of about 20 kms south and then releasing the convoy. And thankfully, throughout the entire ordeal, no injuries or deaths were reported as a direct result of the fires.
Adding to that support was an announcement that came last Friday from the Province. Premier Rachel Notley said cabinet had authorized the government to provide emergency assistance to people who have been displaced. “We will provide $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependant.”
It seemed like almost from the start people wanted to help out. Albertans began to organize fundraisers and open their homes to displaced residents. Municipalities also responded by opening up halls, schools and other public facilities to help house people who were displaced from that community. This was all organized within hours of the evacuation.
People from across Canada also began to show their support as well by sending donations to the region.
It is always amazing to see this type of response when tragedy like this hits. This is all the more heartwarming especially in a time where many Albertans are struggling with the downturn in the economy. Many have found themselves unemployed and trying to make ends meet but that doesn’t stop them from lending a helping hand. Albertans have put their own struggles aside to help an entire community.
When Fort McMurray residents were evacuated, area highways were literally at a stand still. Motorists were running out of gas and even gas stations were depleted. Albertans rushed to their aid with gas cans, water, food and other necessities while the motorists waited for hours and even days on end.
Fort McMurray has been one of the hardest hit municipalities with the economic downturn as many people have not only lost their jobs in that oilfield-driven city, but the now the devastation of losing part of their community and even possibly their own home – we cannot imagine that sense of loss.
But we hope that residents of Fort Mac know that all of Alberta stands behind them and there is no doubt the province will come together once again to help rebuild that community when the time comes.
Meanwhile, fire conditions remain extreme in the province. Because of this all fire permits are suspended and no new fire permits will be issued. Across Alberta, all open fires, including campfires and charcoal briquettes, are prohibited.
The use of incendiary targets is also banned. These targets explode when shot with a firearm and have been known to create fires.
In addition, the province is urging the public to avoid Off Highway Vehicles (OHVs) use as much as possible. If they must be used, remove burnable debris from hot spots. All OHVs in Alberta are required to have a functional muffler and spark arresters.
Portable propane fire pits and gas or propane stoves and barbecues designed for cooking or heating are allowed.
The fire ban applies to Alberta’s Forest Protection Area and all counties, municipal districts and special areas such as provincial parks and recreation areas. The fire ban does not apply to cities, towns, villages or summer villages or federal lands such as national parks.
The fire ban will remain in place until further notice.
We know the community of Fort McMurray will rebuild and become stronger than ever. If this past week is a testament as to how strong Albertans are and how quickly they come together, we know Fort Mac will be back to a new normal in no time.