As soon as word broke about the evacuation orders in Fort McMurray, Erin Deems knew that animals were going to be left behind.
Deems, who runs an animal rescue just outside of Stettler, started making plans to head north to help rescue the many dogs, cats and other family pets that had to be left behind as neighbourhoods were cordoned off and people fled in a panic.
Holly Plunkett, who operates a horse rescue near Stettler, had the same idea in mind. Knowing horses were going to be left behind in the flight from the city, she started making plans to head north, too.
While people were fleeing south, people like Plunkett and Deems headed north, ready to volunteer their time and effort to help rescue the animals left behind.
Meanwhile in Stettler, people grouped together to help raise money and collect needed goods for those who were fighting the fires, or were stranded in communities near Fort McMurray. Truckloads of water and food, baby diapers and other hygiene goods, were packed up in trailers, right to the roof. Lindsay Langan and her family hauled a full trailer and truck while Michael and Miranda Coenen helped organize small fundraisers to help fill the trailers going to help the evacuees.
Even though the fire has moved beyond the city, it is now threatening work camps north of Fort McMurray. Workers at several oil sands camps have been evacuated and others are on standby, ready to take flight should the wind change direction.
Weather continues to be warm with little humidity and virtually no moisture, meaning The Beast, as the fire’s been called, still burns. High winds on Monday did not help the situation. The fire is now roughly 10 kilometres from the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.
With it being some time before the evacuees can return home, people in the community are still fundraising to help displaced families in the interim. A day of concerts at West Stettler Park on Saturday, May 14, helped raise money, and the day before, the students of William E. Hay Secondary Campus hosted a barbecue and car wash to raise money as well.