Alberta & Northern Territories Division

Fort McMurray wildfire 2016

Fort McMurray Community Continues to Support One Another

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It has been one year since the wildfire called ‘The Beast’ raged through Fort McMurray burning 5,000 square kilometres, destroying 2,400 structures, and leaving thousands homeless.

Much has changed in Fort McMurray since the entire city was evacuated. Roughly 15,000 people have not returned to the community and for those who have returned, the psychological impacts of going through such a traumatic event are still being felt.

“There’s still a lot of anxiety, there’s still a lot of stress and high emotions,” says Salvation Army Major Stephen Hibbs. “The sound of a fire truck, the smell of smoke – they all trigger people. Everyone’s ears and noses perk up to those sounds and smells. There are several counselling groups in the city and all of them are full and have waiting lists.” 

At times it has been exceptionally hard to find anything positive that has come out of the fire, but Hibbs says that tremendous partnerships have formed with other nonprofit agencies in the city.

“We all worked independently and got the job done, but when we needed to lean on each other we found that was a great thing to do,” says Major Hibbs. “We realized how important we all are to each other in the big picture of things.”

Cheryl and Cory Norman lost everything in the fire. As they headed south to safety last year, the security system app on their phones alerted them that their home was engulfed in flames. The Normans chose to return to Fort McMurray and rebuild. While it has been challenging, friends in their church congregation collected money for the family so that they could buy everything that they needed from a spoon to a couch.

“We wanted to come back because we’ve lived here for nine years, our kids grew up here. Our family, our friends, our church family are all here,” says Cheryl. “We can’t thank people enough for what they did for us.”

“A lot of people have been praying for us and I think that’s the main reason why we can stand here and say we’ve come this far,” says Cory. “There’s still a long way to go but I know that people are praying for us and that helps to know that.”

Current estimates are that it may take at least five years for Fort McMurray to fully recover from the fire. With warehouses fully stocked with physical goods and wares, the key way to continue helping the people affected by the fire is through financial support. Donate today

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