Relief efforts from Vanderhoof to families affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire ramped up last weekend through community support — individuals and businesses alike.
80,000 people had been forced to evacuate from the Albertan city so far, where a wildfire that grew from 7,500 hectares on May 4 to 85,000 hectares overnight destroyed more than 1,600 homes and buildings.
On May 6, Trevor Louie and Lane Turnbull from Fraser Lake gathered two pickup trucks and a horse trailer full of in-kind donations from the community, including Vanderhoof, to Prince George, where semi trucks were transporting combined contributions from the north central B.C. region to evacuees in Buffalo Lake.
Louie connected with Prince George’s Shawn Peters online, where Peters and a group of volunteers are coordinating the regional community relief effort through the Facebook page “PG Supports FTMac.”
“I just thought I can help out,” said Louie, who has friends living in the fire-affected region as well as others who previously worked at Fort McMurray. “I want to send our thanks to the community for their contributions.”
On May 7, Vanderhoof residents Jeff Williams and Catherine Weaver gathered more donations from the community as well for the coordinated relief effort.
“It’s just a kind thing we decided to do,” Williams said. “Cause if we were in the same situation, we’d want people to help out in the same way.”
Attendees to the latest fundraiser for the Vanderhoof Aquatic Centre, featuring four local bands in Vanderhoof’s arena at the Ice Out Party on May 7, also contributed to the wildfire relief, as half of the event’s proceeds would be going towards Canadian Red Cross’ Fort McMurray wildfire relief.
Local business support relief with fuel
Since May 6, local businesses such as Your Independent Grocer and Vanderhoof & Districts Co-operative Association are taking donations for Red Cross at the cashier.
As of last weekend, over $3,000 have been raised so far from YIG’s till, said store manager Jim Mackie.
Co-op would be matching their customers’ donations, and on May 5, the grocery store donated 792 litres of fuel and supplies to Prince George resident Rod Duerksen, who left last week with water and food in a 20-foot trailer to help evacuees in the region, said general manager Alan Bieganski.
Before assuming his role in Vanderhoof two years ago, Bieganski managed the local Co-op in Plamondon, Alberta.
Located a two-hour driving distance south of For McMurray, the store is currently operating 24 hours to serve the rush of evacuees and keep supplies stocked on shelves.