P.E.I. volunteers honoured for Fort McMurray wildfire efforts

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P.E.I. volunteers honoured for Fort McMurray wildfire efforts

The Canadian Red Cross honoured Islanders on Saturday who helped with evacuation-related-operations during the Fort McMurray wildfires nearly one year ago.

"For the first time, Canadians saw the complete evacuation of a Canadian city — 80,000 people," said Conrad Sauve, president and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross, at the ceremony in Charlottetown.

"Within two hours, everyone had to evacuate. And, two hours was — you pick up your things and you go and you don't know when you're coming back and you don't know if you're coming back to a home or not. This was the situation of Fort McMurray."

Michelle Arsenault of the Canadian Red Cross in P.E.I., was one of nine volunteers to receive an award. 

She recalled being shocked when she first saw images of the Fort McMurray wildfires, which broke out on May 1.

"My heart was breaking with tears running down my face," she said.

Arsenault was sent to Calgary to help manage volunteers working with evacuees in various parts of the province.

"We were there to provide relief to the local volunteers and give them time to recoup, because they were the ones who were going to be there for the long haul," she said.

Chris Vessey also helped out with evacuees. But he was able to do so from the Island. Vessey supervised an emergency call centre that helped register evacuees.

Vessey later heard from one of the evacuees he helped. 

"He said 'I wasn't sure that life was worth living that day, and when I heard you on the phone, it told me that I could,'" Vessey said. "To have that completion to a story, that one will be in my memory forever.'"

The Canadian Red Cross in P.E.I. raised more than $400,000 to help with the Fort McMurray response.

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