On May 3, raging wildfires blazed through northeastern Alberta, causing the largest fire-related evacuation in the province’s history of 80,000 people from the town of Fort McMurray, including IBEW members from Edmonton Local 424.

The fire, known as “the beast,” remains out of control, reported the CBC. By all accounts, it will be weeks before residents will be allowed to return.

“There is no doubt that our brothers and sisters in Alberta will be impacted by this event for quite some time,” IBEW First District Vice President William Daniels said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with our members, their families, Albertans and all Canadians affected by these devastating fires.”  

The fire seared through more than 1,600 square miles and destroyed some 2,400 structures in the erstwhile oil sands boomtown. Fortunately, about 85 percent of the city remains intact. Local 424 is currently working to locate their members and assess what they need, said Assistant Business Manager Ken MacKenzie.

“We want to take care of our brothers and sisters,” MacKenzie said. “We’re going to be there for them for the coming months and however long it takes.”

Local 424 also allocated $500,000 to assist affected members, said Business Manager Kevin Levy.

Fort McMurray is located near Alberta’s oil sands, the third largest oil reserve in the world. Portions of the area, which were largely unaffected originally, had reopened to allow some employees back. But changing conditions in the fire caused a second evacuation of about 8,000 people, reported the CBC. Some were even airlifted out .  About 450 members live and work in Fort McMurray, said MacKenzie. Every day they aren’t operating, around 1 million barrels are lost.

About half of Fort McMurray’s evacuees have been relocated to Edmonton, approximately 270 miles south.

“It’s amazing what they’ve been able to do,” International Representative Larry Schell said of Edmonton’s quick response and ability to set up shelter and provisions.

Many residents of Alberta, including IBEW members, have already stepped in to help, eager to lend a hand in rebuilding and whatever else needs to be done.  

“You see it everywhere,” MacKenzie said. “If you go in to any shop or business in Alberta they’re taking up a collection and asking people to volunteer and donate.”

For those who wish to help, IBEW Canada has set up a donation page in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross. All donations will be matched by both the federal and provincial governments, meaning that for every dollar donated, a total of three dollars will be raised.

“Locals from all across Canada have called to help,” Levy said. “The IBEW is really stepping up and reaching out, which allows us to focus on our members.”

A statement from Vice President Daniels, which includes a link to the donation page, can be found on the IBEW Canada website .  

Homepage Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Premier of Alberta.