Fort McMurray Fires & How We Can Help
The fire that has been all over international news is still burning in Fort McMurray and aside from consuming the city from which it got its name, it has also engulfed over a half million hectares of land across northern Alberta. This is Alberta's biggest national disaster in living memory, and let's not forget that this was the stage for biblical flooding in 2013.
The inferno rages on mostly due to dry weather conditions. It's definitely not for lack of fire fighters on the scene as there are currently nearly 2,000 brave men and women fighting the blaze. Travis Fairweather, a wildfire information officer with the Canadian government said:
"We can fight as long and hard as we want, but the only thing that will stop a wildfire this size is rain."
Usually fires don't spread like this in May, but the El Nino year has brought less snow and moisture than normal. This combined with the unseasonably hot weather and high winds have created the perfect storm for this furious inferno, which even has its own weather system.
“The plume of smoke above the fire had lightning coming out of it, and that lightning was hitting the ground and starting new fires,” says Fairweather. “I had never seen that before.”
The fire stretches 600 kilometers wide, has displaced more than 80,000 people, torched nearly 2,500 homes and as of May 19th, it has breached the border into Saskatchewan. The conditions are extreme and the fire remains out of control.
Video By: Vice News via YouTube
As of May 22nd at 3:00pm, there were a total of 18 wildfires burning simultaneously with one of them completely out of control. Currently we have 1,880 firefighters on the job, 104 helicopters, 295 pieces of heavy equipment and 29 air tankers battling the blaze. Fort McMurray, Anzac, Fort McMurray First Nation, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McKay First Nation and a few camps north of Fort McMurray are still under a mandatory evacuation order, while ATCO employees are on the ground restoring vital utility infrastructure. Gas service has been restored to about 90% of undamaged structures in Fort McMurray, and Electricity has been restored to more than 90% of undamaged buildings in the area.
While Fairweather is probably right that only rain can stop this fire, we as Albertans and Canadians can definitely help. The Alberta Red Cross has set up a Wildfire Response Program and has already donated $50 million in financial assistance.
Because this is such an enormous catastrophe, $50,000,000 only amounts to around $600 / adult and $300 / child, hardly enough to pay for hotels, let alone home damage and loss of working hours. If you would like to help out, you can register at the Alberta Red Cross Page and do your part to help those in need. Alberta Lift & Equipment Rentals will be donating all proceeds from our Pink Lift Campaign to help with the damage relief. Our staff has also agreed to forfeit their social fund in order to add to the donations. This is the fund that we usually use to pay for our Fantastic Fridays and other group events. We can only hope that the rain comes and helps the brave men and women who are fighting this fire and that the donations and aid will help to alleviate some of the pain of those affected by the fires.
We will continue to do everything we can to support the families displaced by these fires and we hope that they can return to their homes and start to rebuild soon.
AMRU SALAHUDDIEN/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES
Fire on Highway via CC BY-SA 4.0 on Wikipedia
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