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,
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
The fire seared through more than 1,600
and destroyed some 2,400
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
“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,
Some were even
. 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
Homepage Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Premier of Alberta.