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A Nation Responds to the Fort McMurray Fire
A Nation Responds to the Fort McMurray Fire
From lemonade stands to charity concerts, Canadians were moved to break their own record of generosity
May 12, 2016
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If Fort Macs need struck a special chord in Atlantic Canada, variations on the theme played across the country. Somebody caught a news report and was moved to make some calls, send some emails, launch a Facebook page, get something going. The cumulative result is an outpouring that might just be unprecedented. As of May 10, the Canadian Red Cross had received $60 million in donations for Fort McMurray, and the federal governments pledges to match all individual donations. That dwarfs the $43.3 million the Red Cross raised in 2013 after the Alberta floods, the organizations largest domestic Canadian appeal before this week.
If the images of Fort Mac residents fleeing in convoys down a highway flanked by flame was, as Andrews put it, gut-wrenching, the stories of children taking up their plight were heartwarming. In the suburbs of Toronto, kids who set up lemonade stands to raise money for Fort McMurray raked in more than $400 in one case, better than $2,500 in another. Kids in Saskatchewans Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation filmed messages of support. At Torontos Northlea Elementary and Middle School, students will be invited to wear pyjamas every Friday this month, but are encouraged, for the privilege, to bring at least a toonie for the Red Crosss Fort Mac fund.
In fact, many Canadians are learning to consider Fort Mac in a way they hadnt before. News reports focusing on hard-hit evacuees humanized a city previously associated, for many outsiders, with images like photographer Edward Burtynskys aerial photos of epic-scale oil sands mining, which tend to suggest a ruined boreal landscape. If I flew over it, Id probably be appalled, says JJ Hilsinger, owner of the Water Tower Inn in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. That didnt stop Hilsinger, though, from spearheading a drive to get Soo businesses to create a pool of at least $25,000, out of which they will match any individual donations from local residents to the Red Crosss fire fund. His environmental misgivings? It didnt come into the equation, he says. You just saw that there were a whole lot of people in dire need, and going through a fearful point in life.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Space Agency helped track the blaze with images from several satellites, including RADARSAT-2. The Canadian Forces contributed four Griffon helicopters and one Hercules transport plane, helping airlift civilians, deliver medical supplies and monitor the fire zone. (The military made a point of touting the first humanitarian mission for one of its newly acquired Chinook helicopters.) Among contributions from provinces, Quebec sent four water bombers, Ontario sent three 21-person firefighting teams, and Manitoba sent an urban search and rescue unit.
For at least the next two weeks, however, human stories will overshadow the economic toll. Among the most touching was Syrian refugee Rita Khanchets response when she saw in Fort McMurrays plight something of the same trauma she had gone through in her own war-ravaged country. Khanchet, who has been in Calgary with her husband and young son for just five months, used a Facebook post to rally other Syrian refugees to donate $5 each and pooled that money to buy hygiene items for Fort Mac evacuees.
Among many business efforts to help out, Labatt drew notice by temporarily canning water instead of beer in London, Ont., and delivering thousands of the aluminum canslighter, less prone to breaking, and thus better for disaster-response situations than bottled waterto Edmonton. Companies with big presence in Fort McMurray faced special challenges. The response of Sobeys Inc., which has three supermarkets stores and two liquor stores in Fort Mac, is a saga in its own right. The grocery chain had some 500 evacuated employees to track. A lone manager, still in the city as it emptied out, rushed back to a store at the last minute to distribute water, batteries, power bars and other supplies to firefighters. By 8 a.m. on May 4, Sobeys had decided to donate $100,000 in goods and another $100,000 to match customer cash donations, and signs were up in its stores across the country asking shoppers to give to the Red Cross.
The complete article may be read at the URL above.
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