In the past month or so, Northern Alberta has been experiencing a catastrophic wildfire of massive proportions. As of writing this article, the Fort McMurray fires have devastated 251,000 hectares of land, equating roughly 150,000 standard football fields. New York City itself only covers 121,400 hectares. Less than half.
Harrowing images of fire raining from the sky spread through social media at a staggering rate and donations poured in from every corner of the world. Ninety-thousand people have been evacuated from their homes, 90% heading south while the rest have been sheltered at work camps in oil rigs and smaller communities north of the city.
Colin Weir, director of the Alberta Birds of Prey Society, has expressed concern that tens of thousands of wild animals have lost their lives due to this catastrophe. No matter where you turn, communities and lives have been affected, if not destroyed. This, however, has been met and combatted with overwhelming support.
Universities, community centers, and businesses all across the province opened their doors to the flood of evacuees while offering tremendous support. On May 23rd, Red Cross donations hit a staggering $100 million dollars while other smaller organizations have banded together to accumulate aid of any kind.
As a Calgarian, I have been able to witness the spectacular support that my community has offered. Walking through my local mall, I noticed stores that were offering major discounts on vital necessities such as clothes and food for evacuees. Radio stations chimed in between songs to update the masses on recent advancements or setbacks. No matter which way I turned, I saw a strong radiance of love and compassion from every direction. All across social media, Conservatives and New Democrats set aside their arguments and differences to rally behind a fellow struggling community.
In 2013, my hometown made headlines when a flood caused an estimated five billion dollars in damages. End of year exams for students were nullified regardless of if you were affected, in case you had a loved one or friend you needed to assist. The whole province came together for the communities of Calgary and High River to raise support, and once more has Alberta proven its compassion and strength in supporting Fort McMurray.
Although international headlines have began to dissipate, support has not diminished. Friends from all across the world have reached out to me and my community, and it is incredibly inspiring to receive so much support.
Rehabilitation will be a lengthy and grievous process as people return to their destroyed communities, but the provincial, national and global support will not cease. We’re with you, Fort Mac. Through Hell or high water.
Earth Guardians RYSE Youth Council, 2016
If you are interested in helping directly, check out McLean's information below, which details how your support can hold the maximum impact:
If you want to help the tens of thousands of evacuees fleeing the Fort McMurray fire, be careful. Well-meaning people can fall prey to scams posing as donation sites, and even if you’re giving through organizations that are actually trying to help, some items may actually do more harm than good. To make sure you’re having the maximum effect, follow these guidelines:
- If you want to donate to the Red Cross, you can give any amount through this link: Alberta Fires Appeal.Alternately, you can donate $5 by texting REDCROSS to 30333 or donate $10 by texting FIRES to 45678. Be careful: There are some scammers posing as the Red Cross asking for money on social media. Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government is matching all donations made to the Red Cross for the Fort McMurray Wildfires.
- If you want to donate to the Salvation Army, you can give any amount through this link: Alberta Fire Response.
- If you want to donate to Save the Children, you can give any amount through this link: Fort McMurray Emergency Wildfire.
- If you need a place to stay, or are looking to take in some evacuees, check out these Facebook groups:Fort McMurray Evacuee Open Source Help Page, Fort Mcmurray evac relocation help group.
- Airbnb has waived all service fees for those affected by the fire, and there are already over 140 places listed on the site for free.
- Those able to house displaced people can also sign up at ymmfire.ca
- The Calgary Humane Society is taking donations, you can give here: Fundraiser in Support of Fort McMurray.
- The Edmonton Humane Society is also taking donations, you can give here: Fort McMurray Wildfire Donation form.
- Those looking to house people’s pets, help unify lost pets with owners, and generally assist with animal rescue should check out this Facebook page: Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance
DONATE FOOD AND ITEMS
- If you want to donate items such as blankets or clothes, check out this Facebook group: Fort Mac Fire Donations. Make sure you’re only giving things people actually need. People often donate things after a disaster that aren’t needed, and sometimes actually get in the way of vital supplies.
- Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is collecting new shoes, towels, socks, underwear, diapers, baby wipes, and toiletries. Drop off items at: Hangar 2: 3631 – 56 Ave East, Edmonton International Airport.
- Edmonton’s Food Bank is collecting donations. Food can be dropped off at any major grocery store or fire hall.
- The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is inviting volunteers to sign up here.
- Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is looking for volunteers (must be 16 or older) at a number of locations throughout Edmonton. Volunteers are particularly needed at the airport, as that location is running 24-7. Follow their Facebook page: Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society, for the latest updates.
- Those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross can sign up here.