Canada is currently undergoing its most expensive — and arguably one of its most destructive — natural disasters in recorded history. Ever since May 1, a fire has engulfed much of Canada's Alberta province, decimating 560,000 acres of land. Although the Fort McMurray fire is growing less rapidly than before, as of May 9, it still covered 700 square acres of western Canada. Officials say that it will be months before the flames are entirely extinguished.
So far, the fire in Alberta has killed two people, and The Independent reported that over 100,000 Canadians have had to evacuate their homes. The vast majority of the evacuees are from Fort McMurray, a city in northeastern Alberta, known for its oil sands. Though 90 percent of Fort McMurray's buildings were saved, the city's fire department estimates that 2,400 structures burned in Fort McMurray — it will likely take years for the city to be rebuilt. Residents of Fort McMurray are not allowed to return home yet, and many will not have homes to return to.
Therefore, thousands of Canadians are taking refuge in evacuation centers Edmonton, Alberta's capital city, while they wait to return to what's left of Fort McMurray. It's likely that the evacuees have a long wait ahead of them in Edmonton, and many could use some assistance getting back on their feet — here's how to help, by donating money, goods, housing, or through activism.
Although people are finding many ways to help out those who had to flee the wildfire in Alberta, the Canadian government suggests that monetary donations are the most effective way to chip in. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced over Twitter on May 5 that the Canadian government will match all monetary donations given to the Canadian Red Cross to aid the wildfire relief. Therefore, if you want to help out those affected by the fire, and are able to donate money, a donation to the Canada Red Cross is sure to be useful.
In fact, the Canadian government is giving out debit cards to evacuees to cover the cost of necessities, so your donation will be utilized immediately. A $5 donation can be made quickly by texting REDCROSS to 30333.
Another organization accepting financial donations for those affected by the wildfire is the Wood Buffalo Food Bank — the food bank accepts PayPal donations of any amount.
Airbnb is helping wildfire evacuees find a place to stay while they wait to return to Fort McMurray. Those who live in Alberta can offer shelter to the evacuees on Airbnb, and the website is not charging its typical service fees. In fact, Airbnb is urging its users to offer shelter to evacuees for free. Most of the listings are near Edmonton, the city where the majority of the evacuees fled to after the fire began in Fort McMurray. If you do live in the area, it is important to continue to offer shelter to the evacuees since it could be a long time before they are able to return home.
The Fort Mac Fire Donations Facebook page is a good place to find out what goods the wildfire evacuees need the most. On the page, organizers post items that are most needed by evacuees, and help those willing to donate figure out where to send their donations (there are many shelters filled with evacuees). Toronto residents are currently working to fill a semi-trailer full of clothing, food, and toiletries; once it's full the trailer will make the drive across the country to Alberta to drop off the supplies at evacuee shelters. Organizing a trailer to transport goods is certainly an useful way to help out the wildfire evacuees.
Talk About Climate Change
Soon after it began, the Alberta wildfire spurred a vitriolic discussion of climate change. While it would be insensitive to ignore the present situations faced by the evacuees, and use the wildfire as a platform to prove a point about the reality of climate change, it would irresponsible not to consider the part global climate change played in the Alberta fire. Higher average temperatures, and less precipitation, partially led to the enormity of this fire. Therefore, educating yourself about climate change, and becoming an environmental activist after this horrendous event would be a good way to help prevent future disasters.
If you're interested in helping those effected by the Alberta fire, consider donating to the evacuees, and taking actions to ensure that other people are aware that such disasters are not preventable unless climate change is addressed.
It will be years before Fort McMurray is repaired, therefore, it is important to continue aiding those affected by the fire long after the flames are put out. Consider these ways of helping out today, but as the situation progresses, keep helping the people whose city was destroyed — don't forget about the evacuees in Alberta.