FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — The people of Fort McMurray, Alta. who have been displaced, lost homes and much more at the hands of a destructive wildfire have been in the hearts and minds of Canadians since the Northern Alberta inferno put its crosshairs on the city in early May. Around 2,400 structures were lost due to the fire.
Tragic occurrences like the Fort Mac wildfire more often than not bring out the best in people, and that’s certainly no different when it comes to the trucking industry. Members of the trucking industry from as far away as the East Coast lent their support in Fort McMurray’s time of need.
Based out of Woodstock, N.B., A-OK Trucking driver Dana Crisp spoke with Truck News about the effort his company, along with that of Sheila Kelley, office manager Sheila Sparks and owner Jeff McMullen, have made to get supplies from the East Coast all the way out to Alberta. Kelley, who Crisp said has been employed in Fort Mac in the past, worked to fill a trailer with donations in Woodstock and needed a truck and a driver to transport the items out west.
“I reached out to my boss at 9 a.m.,” Crisp said, as Kelley had approached him May 5 about the effort, “and at 9:30 a.m. he had committed a truck and a driver to haul this stuff out.”
Crisp said that at first, it looked like Kelley’s idea would not be possible, as he estimated the cost of bringing the trailer of donations out west would run close to $5,000. “I knew my boss would absolutely do something,” he said. “But his offer blew me away.”
Whitby, Ont.-based Cam-Scott International said people flocked to its location to donate relief supplies after the company used social media to offer to deliver items to those displaced by the fire.
“Alberta has been good to us over many, many years,” said fleet president Glenn Weddel. “It’s a great opportunity to help and give something back to them in their time of need.”
The company sent its first load to a warehouse in Edmonton May 6, adding to the fleet’s regular weekly Alberta shipments, and Weddel said the effort has been amazing.
“(It’s) something we never predicted,” he said. “But we’ll support it as long as people bring us stuff and (Fort McMurray has) the need.”
Trucks for Change
Pete Dalmazzi, president of Trucks for Change Network, indicated his organization was doing all it could to facilitate the industry’s response, including working closely with the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) and Red Cross.
“Currently, we have received our first request for a truckload shipment by Red Cross out of Ontario to Edmonton,” Dalmazzi said in an e-mail update. “We expect additional requests as Red Cross identifies needs. Red Cross will also have additional needs to reposition and backfill supplies within the province as they are sent west.”
The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) said May 10 that it had received clarification from the Alberta Provincial Operations Centre as to how its members could assist the Fort McMurray relief effort.
“If people can help, please advise how you can help,” said AMTA president Lorraine Card. “Just an offer to help isn’t going to be enough. Provide specific information as to what would that help look like…if you’re offering trucks, how many, what size, other availability…that kind of thing.”
Card said the information will be uploaded into a database and people would be contacted as they are needed for the specific aid they could provide. Companies must also provide a 24-hour contact number where they can be reached. Card said that during the first few days of the wildfire evacuation, several AMTA members were jumping in to do what they could to help, but as the situation progressed, a more consolidated approach to the assistance effort would be required.
During those initial days, Card said several AMTA members were active taking fuel up to stranded motorists on highways, helping them re-fuel and get out of the area, in addition to bringing water for emergency services personnel and food to various warehouses for those forced from their homes. Card said the AMTA received a call from the provincial government over the May 7-8 weekend requesting 10 trucks, and that the association called its carriers to fulfill the request, as well as provide pallet jacks and shrink-wrap to secure the load.
“Whatever they are asking for, we are stepping up and offering,” Card said.
The association echoed the Red Cross’ request that financial donations, which are being matched by the federal and provincial governments, was what was needed at this time.
The British Columbia Trucking Association has donated $5,000 to the Red Cross to help the relief efforts and the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) said it has received numerous phone calls from individuals wanting to know how they can go about shipping supplies to Fort McMurray. The CTA, along with the provincial trucking associations, said it has raised $21,500 for Fort McMurray relief efforts. On May 10, AMTA president Card said that number was closer to $25,000.
“That is going to be matched by the Government of Alberta as well as the Government of Canada,” Card said, “so that is going to be substantial by the time all is said and done.”
This comes on the heels of the CTA calling on all its 4,500 members to help those affected by making a donation to the Red Cross, and setting an example by contributing $12,000.
“We appreciate the effort from everyone across Canada,” said CTA and AMTA chairman Gene Orlick, who runs Orlicks Inc. “It is a dire event and any help we can get is appreciated greatly.”
The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada chipped in $2,000 and urged its members to contribute as well.
So many pitching in
The sheer number of trucking companies that have put in their time, money and effort to help those displaced by the Fort Mac wildfire is difficult to give justice to.
Westcan Bulk Transport and the Westcan Driver Advisory Board are matching employee donations; Manitoulin Transport set up a relief fund; the Mackie Group is sending three trucks from Ontario each week destined for Edmonton with donations to evacuees; Rosenau Transport, in addition to matching employee financial donations, bestowed equipment at various locations for people to drop off items, such as toiletries, water, diapers and non-perishable food, all to be hauled to Alberta; Tremcar, which is headquartered in St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., but also has locations in Saskatchewan and Edmonton, Alta., donated $1,000 to the Canadian Red Cross, and company president Jacques Tremblay encouraged other companies in the industry to do the same and help those in a region he said helped the business grow and develop throughout the last decade; Atlas Van Lines Canada is accepting donations at many of the company’s locations across the country, and will be transported to a designated location; UPS Foundation has donated $32,500 for the Fort Mac relief effort.
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