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May 31

Thank You to the Big-Hearted Albertans

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One thing that we’ve all learnt over the past few weeks is how big-hearted Albertans can be. We’ve seen that when our neighbours need a hand, there is no limit to our generosity. Facing the incredible tragedy of the Fort McMurray Wildfire, we saw Albertans of all stripes come together to support those displaced from their homes. Donations to the Red Cross have surpassed the $100 million mark, and this is only one kind of generosity we have seen.

As the disaster unfolded, emergency responders were the first to step up. We will be forever grateful to the fire fighters and water bombers who helped save most of Fort McMurray. Those who fended off the blaze long enough for all citizens to evacuate safely. Fire fighters came from across the region, province and country to work selflessly and tirelessly on keeping this fire at bay. We’ve heard stories of these men and women watching their own homes burn down, only to turn their attention to their neighbour’s homes, and the greater good of the community.

Those who fled the wildfire left with the bare minimum, and we soon saw people stepping up to offer help, support and services.

Our Executive Director, Debbie Hammond, visited Lac La Biche to join the volunteers. What she saw was an amazing community of people and an extraordinary display of human spirit. After a full day’s work, volunteers would come out every evening and work countless hours to offer resources and emotional support to the evacuees.

The community support was overwhelming. Debbie was enlisted to transport evacuees from Lac La Biche to Edmonton. The task made her anxious. What could she say to these people who’d lost it all? Who had watched the city they know and love go up in flames. She heard of the horror these people had experienced when the fire caused the evacuation. She heard about how the evacuation happened so fast. It took less than 30 minutes from seeing smoke on the horizon until the fire was nipping at their doorsteps. She heard of how grateful people were to grab their most sentimental possessions.

But mostly she heard about the extreme generosity they had experienced from strangers. There were the philanthropic organizations and volunteers, but also people stopping to pick up those stranded on the highway and offering gas to those who needed it.

It struck Debbie just how strong these people were, and how grateful they were to be alive. The generous spirit of everyone across our country has made this horrible situation a little better. Because of everyone who came together, survival and recovery are possible.

As you know, the Coalition is made up largely of industry organizations. The way that our members and other organizations stepped up was truly heartwarming.  Companies opened their private air strips, camps and equipment to evacuate workers and residents and to help fight the fire. Member employees turned around after being evacuated in order to haul fuel tanks for the fire fighter’s emergency equipment. They stayed on and continued to help, moving tanks around as they were threatened by the flames, and working as volunteer fire fighters. Some delivered 5th wheel trailers for displaced families, and hauled fuel to cars that had run out of gas. Many member companies donated large sums to the Red Cross, either through straight donations or by matching donations from employees, in addition to donating food supplies to help support displaced families.

This just shows a little of the generosity that Albertans have shown over the past few disastrous weeks. This fire has taken much from many Albertans, but it’s also given us a chance to fight the fire and the damage its caused. Together.