The province and the country have watched in horror as wildfires moved through Fort McMurray over the past week. The amount of damage has gone to a level we haven’t seen before. Almost 90,000 people, sitting comfortably in their Alberta homes just over a week ago, are now evacuees—many with no home to return to.
People watching it all unfold have understandably high emotions. This is a tragedy. As well as many homes and businesses, lives have been lost in relation to the fire. The fact that the number is small doesn’t mean much when either of them is part of your family.
Another wildfire in relation to this situation that is also spreading quickly, and out of control and incredibly damaging, are the political flares being thrown around. I have seen and heard ridiculous accusations from both ends of the spectrum placing blame.
The federal and provincial government have laws in place that respond to natural disasters. These will be fulfilled. If we do not see the government officials behaving as we like, we can’t just say nothing is being done. People are responding to immediate needs through government programs.
On the other end, I hear those responding that the premier and prime minister cannot just go and get in the way of the firefighters so they can have their photo op. Well, I hope not. I think the call to see more of them in this situation is to be showing leadership, showing up to help where they can work for a few hours and connect with the evacuees personally. Not to be seen, but to show people their government is aware and the leaders care. Many of their responsibilities in dealing with the fire can’t be done on the frontlines. But I think the detractors want the leaders to show that what those suffereing are going through a means something to them.
Meanwhile, aside from the craziness of the political battles emerging, Albertans and Canadians in general have been amazing. People in our own area, over 800 kilometers away, have felt the need to help out any way they can. We have seen fundraisers in our communities and donations of basic need items as well as formal wear for evacuated graduating students to have one less worry or loss. You who have made this happen, and many other everyday Albertans, we appreciate you taking time out of your own lives, using your own resources to go to the aid of those who are struggling. You stepped up to help your community, our provincial family.
You, along with the firefighters and other rescue workers, are the heroes. The need for all of our efforts will continue long after the smoke clears as those from the Fort McMurray area then need to rebuild. The struggle isn’t over when it’s no longer on the news.