Fort McMurray wildfire: here’s how you can help or get help

Daily Brew

[Crystal Maltais buckles in her daughter, Mckennah Stapley, as they prepare to leave Conklin, Alta., for Lac La Biche after evacuating their home in Fort McMurray on Tuesday REUTERS/Topher Seguin]

Here is a guide to resources for evacuees looking for support and for all Canadians who wish to help those in need:

If you’re leaving the Fort McMurray area, or want to assist those who are leaving their homes, use the followiong resources:

  • Check @YMMHelp on Twitter, a crowdsourced resource for evacuees and those offering them shelter.

  • If you are trying to locate someone or are yourself in need of evacuation information, you can call the regional municipality at (780) 762-3636 or the Red Cross at (888)-350-6070 — which is also gathering information so families can reunite.

  • The Alberta government is trying to keep track of people leaving the town. Residents are being asked to please email wildfire@rmwb.ca with your name, location and confirmation of safety.
  • There is a crowdsourced Facebook page where anyone can offer help/ board or materials and maybe even link up with an evacuee.
  • Headed away from Fort McMurray? Follow the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (@RMWoodBuffalo) for regular updates and the latest on evacuation routes. In addition, there is @511Alberta for updates on road closings.
  • Airbnb has a link to free offers of accommodations. Click here.
  • The Fort Saskatchewan Legion has its doors open for anyone to stop and rest or use the washroom.
  • AFD Petroleum is offering free gas to motorists who can make it to its camp on Highway 63 at Mariana Lake, south of Fort McMurray.
  • The Fort McKay First Nation, about 58 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, opened its work camp lodges. Two are already full, but about 450 rooms are left at Creeburn Lake Lodge, which will open around 11 p.m. on Wednesday.
  • Edmonton’s Sikh community has also pitched in. Families are offering rooms, basements and couches. Contact the Guru Nanak Sikh Society Gurdwara: (780) 935 2786.
  • Supporters of Alberta Animal Rescues have offered to help out with animals of all kinds.
  • Chrissy Perry has called out on her Facebook page to say she is offering her “40 acres to campers, RVs, motor homes for anyone needing space,” as well as pasture space for larger animals, about 15 minutes east of Sherwood Park.
  • Calgarian Dana Geddes of Dogego Difficult Dog Boarding in Calgary says she is willing to house up to 15 dogs from Fort McMurray residents for free and for as long as necessary.

Giving help:

As much as you might feel helpless at home and might volunteer (always needed), Jenn McManus, vice-president of the Canadian Red Cross in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, says money is always best.

“In-kind donations are very complex and very logistically challenging to operationalize, so, at this point, financial support is the best way to support from Calgary,” said McManus told the Calgary Herald.

“We have trained staff and volunteers that are ready to be deployed to support evacuees, and we have emergency resources that we can move.”

Emergency Preparedness 101:

Sudden storms, fires, outages or any various acts of man and nature can strike at any time. Have you thought about having an emergency kit prepared? Here’s what you need to know.

The basic kit should contain enough supplies for three days.

What to pack? Nonperishable foods, a flashlight, water, batteries, radio, first-aid kit, an emergency plan, prescription medications, copies of government identification and health cards.

Have a plan. So work out a plan for your family for when everyone is at home and everyone is separated. Think about your course of action in a variety of situations, such as flood, storm or fire. Review these plans every few months with everyone.

Just prior to evacuating your home, make sure you have several hundred dollars in cash as you never know if digital transactions can be made. Spare keys for your home, car and mailbox should also be at the ready.

When you leave, bring your photos. Many people who’ve experienced calamities often say their photos are the most precious thing (other than their lives) that they would have rescued or brought with them.