The weather has eased the huge firestorms that swept through Fort McMurray, AB, but the disaster is far from over. Almost 90,000 residents of the town and surrounding areas were evacuated last week as wildfires raced through the region. The worst of the fires are now northeast of town, but the pictures of devastation are staggering. It will be months, even years, before life returns to pre-fire normal for those who return.
In the meantime the best way to help the tens of thousands of people affected is to support the efforts of the Canadian Red Cross (www.RedCross.ca). The organization has the experience, drive and teams on the ground to get help to where it is needed most.
Meanwhile, help continues to flood to the region. Here is a rundown of some recent generous donations:
- Teck Resources will donate $75,000 to the Canadian Red Cross and a further $25,000 to match donations made by its employees.
- SMS Equipment has pledged $100,000, again to the Red Cross.
- Peter Munk, through his charitable foundation, is donating $1 million to the Red Cross for wildfire relief in Fort McMurray.
Remember that the Canadian government has promised to match donations made to the Canadian Red Cross. This writer has made an additional contribution besides my regular monthly pledge. We urge CMJ readers to do likewise.
The oil sands producers have been forced to cut production as people evacuated. Syncrude closed its Aurora mine and reduced production at other sites to minimum levels. Imperial Oil said last week it had only essential staff at its Kearl site and that has led to lower output. Suncor Energy shut down its operations at the base plant, MacKay River and Firebag installations, and reduced output will continue because of the labour shortage. Some reports last week suggested that bitumen output had been reduced by 40%.
The total cost to property and lost production may not be known for some time, and the human cost might be impossible to quantify. Please keep northern Albertans in your thoughts, and offer what help you can.