Five inspiring stories mark five years of resilience and progress after Alberta wildfires

Disasters affect people in different ways, but it is clear that hope, gratitude and determination prevail in stories of the devastating 2016 wildfires in Fort McMurray and the surrounding region.

A burned building after the Alberta wildfires in 2016Five years ago, wildfires in early May triggered the largest fire-related evacuation in Alberta’s history. More than 80,000 people were forced to seek safety and shelter away from their homes in the Wood Buffalo region.

When the disaster happened, the Canadian Red Cross was already present in the area and today, continues to take an active role there, helping residents with their recovery.
 
There are many stories of people helping people in the region, but the five following stories showcase the power of humanity at its best.
 
1. A poem to move forward from the Alberta fires:
In the fall of 2016, Peter Derban visited the Red Cross office in Fort McMurray to share a poem that he wrote about his wildfire experience:

“Fire department in Fort Mac like angels work hard, all day and night.
They are tired, won’t give up. Evil flames they fight, nonstop.”

Although Peter doesn’t mention it, he also played a role in battling the flames. The Fort McMurray resident owns a water truck business and volunteered his time and resources to provide water to first responders. Peter worked straight through May 16 to 22 to share his water supply where it was most needed.
 
A Red Cross worker helping provide residents with clean-up kits which are lined up against a wall.2. Alberta fires: expressions of support and compassion from donors to evacuees:
This story compiles some of the heartfelt, compassionate words of encouragement, resilience and strength shared by Canadians to support evacuated residents. Canadians from coast to coast demonstrated remarkable generosity through their kind messages, and by making financial donations that helped people in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo with immediate emergency and re-entry needs, as well as support for recovery.


3. Mental health support for people impacted by Alberta fires:
Following her evacuation from Fort McMurray in 2016, Sithara Fernando experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. She shared her story and an inspiring video to help others recover. Many people need emotional well-being and mental health supports after a major disaster. The Red Cross has collaborated with service delivery experts in the region to help ensure people receive support with their recovery.
 
People dancing at the Metis Festival in 20164. McMurray Metis celebrate culture and resiliency:
The wildfires delayed but couldn’t stop Fort McMurray’s Metis community from gathering for their annual Metis Festival. For many, the event, which highlights the Metis culture and music, was the first time that people saw each other after the disaster. And together, the community celebrated its resiliency and determination to build back even stronger.
 
5. Fort McMurray volunteer continues to give back:  
When Nicole Greville first returned to Fort McMurray after being evacuated, she felt restless and sidelined. So, she decided to volunteer for the Canadian Red Cross - and has continued to help the organization ever since. “It was empowering to be able to help my neighbours during this time and offer a familiar face,” she explains in her story.
 
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