Alberta and Ontario Wildfire 2019 Response

Drought conditions, extreme heat, and lightning made for a dangerous mix in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario in the summer of 2019. The resulting fires caused the evacuation of communities and the demand for the provision of services and supplies for people sheltered away from home.

In Northern Alberta, the residents of the town of High Level were forced to leave because the fires came within five kilometres of the community. Almost 20,000 people left through the only road still passable to get to designated host communities. Several smaller villages and First Nations communities were also evacuated.

Adventist volunteer teams went to work in Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Calgary, Lacombe, and Grande Prairie preparing and distributing hygiene kits. The kits contained soap, washcloths, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, as well as feminine hygiene products for women, and razors for men. In May over 1,000 kits were assembled and shipped to the shelters run by the province and the Canadian Red Cross. Dozens of volunteers from churches around the province mobilized for this endeavour.

In June, the First Nation of Pikangikum in Ontario was threatened by a wildfire causing the evacuation of the close to 4,000 members of the community. Winnipeg in Manitoba and six Ontario host communities became shelters for the people evacuated. Located midway between Sioux Lookout and Lac Seul, Pelican Falls High School became a host for some of the evacuees. This was facilitated by the Independent First Nations Alliance. Since ADRA was already active in nearby Lac Seul, we were invited to assist at the shelter at the Pelican Falls High School, which accommodated about 90 people evacuated there by the military.

ADRA flew in teams from Ottawa to provide registration, health care advice, hygiene kit distribution, shuttle services, and emotional/spiritual care. The six volunteers stayed for almost a week until the urgent needs were met and the community of Pelican Falls was able to take over the functions. A second team previously scheduled for Pelican Falls was asked to fly to Thunder Bay instead to support the Red Cross volunteers. That team spent a week providing similar services.

The Alberta and Ontario governments, the NGO Alliance of Ontario, and the NGO Council of Alberta sent expressions of thanks for the services and help provided by the Adventist volunteers.

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