Canadian generosity will help Fort Mac rise from the ashes

by Derek Clothier

It’s been a trying time for the people of Fort McMurray – to say the least.

Nothing I could write in this column would be news to anyone in Canada or elsewhere, as the Fort Mac wildfire has been the top news story in the nation for some time.

But what can never get pointed out enough is how many Canadians have answered the call and reached out to help those displaced. How not just individuals, but industries, like those in the trucking sector, have put their business interests on the backburner so they can do something for the people of Fort Mac that would make a difference.

Trucking associations in Western Canada, and throughout all of Canada for that matter, have said the response from their members has been overwhelming. They say calls have flooded in from companies searching for any way they could help, whether that be by transporting donated goods to evacuees, bring stranded motorists fuel so they could escape the wildfire or simply by making a financial donation to the Canadian Red Cross.

Associations and companies encouraged their peers to help in any way they could, and set an example by doing so themselves.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance said in mid-May that associations across the country had donated $21,500 toward the Fort Mac relief effort, and so many individual trucking companies had contributed even more.

I read an article when the fire had first encroached on the city of Fort McMurray and everyone had been evacuated. A woman, who was a professional truck driver, and a handful of her courageous companions travelled out to Hwy. 63 bringing marooned evacuees fuel to keep them moving away from the fire.

It’s efforts like this, from people who simply want to help, not just from emergency responders (though what they have contributed cannot be overstated), but are not obligated to do anything, that made it possible to evacuate over 80,000 people and have no reported deaths or injuries.

That’s quite phenomenal, really.

But now comes the hard part – rebuilding.

And rebuilding does not merely involve construction efforts, building homes, buildings and other brick and mortar that was lost due to the wildfire. People’s desire to work, live and raise a family in Fort McMurray must also be rebuilt.

Fort Mac and many of its residents have been pitched three strikes in the past year-and-a-half. They first endured the rapid decline in oil prices that have left many without a job; people of ‘The Mac’ then suffered from a severe real estate collapse, with many losing tens of thousands of dollars on the value of their homes, in addition to losing their jobs; then came the final blow, the wildfire.

My guess would be, however, that For Mac is not out – they have plenty of game left in them.

Some look at the numbers after the fire and see that 90% of the city remains intact, which is great, but that is no solace for the 10% who lost everything.

But with the help of so many people and companies, many of which from the trucking industry that have openly acknowledged how much Fort Mac has done for them over the years, and how now was the time to give back, I’m confident there will be a resurgence, and I’d bet it’s not that far away.

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