All of you Canadian readers will be well aware of what’s going on in Alberta — you can’t avoid it. Top news stories, water cooler talk. It’s rapidly taking over the weather as the number one topic of conversation. For those of you non-Canadians, we have a horrific natural disaster happening. At last check more than 85,000 hectares (850 sq. km, 328 sq. miles) have been burned, including a lot of the town of Fort McMurray. More than 80,000 people have been evacuated. Entire neighbourhoods have been burned to the ground. People have lost everything. Amazingly, not one person has been killed by the fire, though tragically, two young people were killed in a traffic accident while escaping the blaze.
If you want to see a real live disaster movie, check out the dozens of “dash cam” videos of people evacuating — surrounded by horrific forest fires. And to get an idea of the size of the fire/evacuation look here.
(And let’s not forget here, too. On the opposite side of the Province, just across the border into British Columbia. In fact, much of the Canadian west — from western Ontario to BC — is at an extremely high risk for wildfires. Alberta now has a Province-wide open fire ban.)
Relations between Alberta and much of the rest of Canada (especially Ontario) have traditionally been strained. With its until-recently-wealthy oil-based economy, Alberta sees many other provinces as “takers”. Not to mention issues with environmentalism (not at the forefront of the oil industry’s strategies), ethical farming practices (after oil, agriculture — especially beef — is huge in Alberta). Ontario sees itself as the center of the universe and as the economic engine of the country; of course, other provinces should contribute to us. There is a host of other “us vs. them” issues.
However, nothing like a disaster to pull people together — one hopes. Hundreds of firefighters from other provinces have been sent to help. Fundraising efforts have begun; the Red Cross is taking donations and the federal government will match them. In Ontario, the LCBO is collecting Red Cross donations at their cash registers.
And there are lovely anecdotal stories like this.
Those of you who know me, and those who’ve read me for a while, know that I’m not the biggest fan of humanity. And there’s a little part of me that’s sad it takes something horrific to bring people together, but at least it has. For the most part, political and selfish ideologies have been put aside and people are pulling together, doing what they can to help. I am proud of us. Let’s hope it continues for the long haul that so many of these people are going to endure.
On a personal note, my sister works for the Alberta government (she’s in Edmonton) and is crazy busy right now helping with the first responders. She even had to cancel her birthday plans! And her son is with the Canadian Forces and is waiting to see if he’ll be deployed to help. I’m so proud of them both!