Fort McMurray – What is your next move??

Consider this to be your invitation to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Fort McMurray.  I am sure you have been following the fire in Ft Mac, or at least you were.  These disasters tend to rage on past our attention span.

Although the fire still burns out of control, it is now many kilometers from the city of Fort McMurray.  This summer will see the beginning of the rebuild, not just of buildings, but of lives and relationships.  Samaritan’s Purse is coordinating one-week teams to assist in many ways those who live in Ft Mac and the surrounding areas.  Here is where you can find out more, volunteer and ‘get your hands dirty’.

What happened?

It is Alberta’s largest fire evacuation;  Fort McMurray was engulfed in a forest fire on 1 May 2016, resulting in mass evacuation orders for the city only 2 days later.


First discovered at 4pm Sunday May 1st, by 6pm the fire had grown to 60 ha despite efforts by crews and tankers.

Pine forest fire. Appropriate to visualize wildfires or prescribed burning of forest in Europe and Asia:UK, Scandinavia, Russia, Baltic states, mountain forest, woods of conifers in any country.


In the following days, 10,000 people sought refuge in northern oil camps, while a further 70,000 found refuge in nearby communities such as Edmonton, Lac La Biche, and further south.  The province declares a State of Emergency.

Old house well a blaze as fire men start to put is out.

Residents of Fort McMurray find themselves either staying with friends and family, in hotel/motel accommodation, or in refugee shelters set up in Edmonton’s Northland’s Stadium or Lac La Biche.  All are affected in physical, emotional and spiritual ways.


The Red Cross, Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse come to the forefront of the wave of assistance.  The Canadian Government pledges to match all donations to the Red Cross, in aid of the Fort Mac relief efforts.

  • On 4 May, Public Safety Canada enables the re-tasking of the diverse satellite assets of 15 space agencies through the activation of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters.  This allows the fire fighters to keep track of the fire hotspots and progress.  The city is surrounded by fire.

How the fire grew:

Date Fires Firefighters Helicopters Air Tankers Heavy
Fire Size
5 May 49 1110 145 22 85,000 ha
7 May 200,000 ha
10 May 700 26 13 46 229,000 ha
12 May 850 104 26 154 241,000 ha
16 May 355,000 ha
18 May 423,000 ha
21 May 504,433 ha
24 May 2200 523,000 ha
10 June 1572 60 19 37 589.995 ha

FYI: 590,000 ha is slightly larger than Prince Edward Island.

  • 6 May brings rescue for the 10,000 evacuees who fled north of the fire.  Over 1500 vehicles are escorted by the RCMP through the fire ravaged community.   By 8 May Syncrude had shut down production at its’ Mildred Lake site, and all northern evacuees have been moved south of the fire.  The fire approaches the Saskatchewan border.
  • Red Cross reports registration of approximately 90,000 people from 46,000 households.
  • 9 May brings some reports of power and gas being restored to the city, while many pets are rescued by the RSPCA.  Statoil ASA closes its Leismer demonstration project.  Premier Notley tours the city and estimates that 2400 structures have been burned; about 10% of the city.
  • 10-11 May brings good news from the Fort Mac fire chief, stating “We think we’ve got this thing beat in McMurray.”  Donations to the Red Cross reach a staggering $60 million, with the federal and provincial funds still to be accounted for.  Funds are being distributed via a system of pre-loaded debit cards to evacuees in Edmonton, Calgary and Lac La Biche.  Over $7 million is distributed of the pledged $1250 per adult and $500 per dependent initial commitment by the Albertan Government.  The Red Cross will electronically distribute an additional $600 per adult and $300 per child to registered evacuees.
  • 13 May, Prime Minister Trudeau checks out the damage to Fort Mac and meets with the Premier.
  • 16 May the fire turns north again, approaching the major oil sands projects.  All workers between Fort Mac and Fort MacKay are put on evacuation notice.
  • By the 24th, Athabasca Oil, Suncor and Syncrude move towards resuming operations, with no sites reporting substantial damage from the fire.  Samaritan’s Purse disaster response units arrive in Fort Mac.
  • On 25 May, financial relief of up to $1000 for small businesses was approved by the Wood Buffalo Region Municipality council.
  • 27 May, crisis-trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deploy to  Fort McMurray, and are ministering to first responders and utility workers as they endeavor to restore critical functions in the city.  The Chaplains will stay to offer support to the returning citizens.
  • 1 June sees the staged return of residents to Fort McMurray.  Numerous challenges are ahead, and a State of Emergency is still in effect.  Many locations have been tested and are identified as having hazardous soil and air contaminants.  Although many houses did not burn, damage from smoke and fire retardants may render them unlivable.  Some were dozed in fire fighting efforts.
  • 8 June: Samaritan’s Purse begins accepting volunteers to assist in the resettling of the residents of Fort McMurray – join them today
  • 13 June is the closing date for all information centres and wildfire relief debit card pickup locations outside of Fort Mac.  It is anticipated that the Fort McMurray Provincial building will be open and operational from this date, and will provide financial and logistical aid.
Burnt forest with rainbow

Be part of HOPE for a new day.

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