As if northern Alberta hadn’t been the target of enough misfortune in the collapse of the oil price, now tens of thousands of Fort McMurray residents have been forced to evacuate as wildfires ravage the town.
So many jobs were lost in the oil sands over the last year as crude prices tanked. Workers who had good paying jobs were suddenly unemployed, and often their families uprooted as they moved away in search of work. Sometimes they left behind houses for sale. If these fires touch those houses, the out-of-work will out of their chief asset with which to start over.
At press time on Wednesday the fires had burned more than 10,000 ha and were expected to rage out of control for the rest of the day.
As many as 88,000 people were evacuated to Edmonton as whole neighbourhoods were destroyed. At dawn this morning 80% of the homes in the Beacon Hill area were leveled. The Abasand, Waterways, Timberlea and Wood Buffalo neighbourhoods suffered serious losses. And by the time this reaches our readers Thursday morning, the uncontrolled fires may well have doubled back to previously unaffected areas.
Thanks to the internet, we can safely follow the conflagration from our distant desks. The images of fire are frightening. The devastation left behind is disheartening. Recovery will take a very long time, years even.
Almost everyone in the Canadian mining sector has a family member or knows someone who has worked in the Fort McMurray area – or at knows someone who does. And as Canadians do in times of crisis, were are coming together and offering to help the many less fortunate.
A website, www.HelpFortMac.com, has been set up for those that want to offer a place to stay and other aid for the evacuees. Help is coming not only from northern Alberta communities but from as far away as Calgary but from across the country.
This writer makes regular monthly donations to the Canadian Red Cross to support its efforts in Canada, and I urge our readers to support humanitarian efforts in our own country.