Fort McMurray disaster response complete after 7,500 volunteer hours

May 4, 2016 • Canada

Samaritan's Purse Canada's second-largest Canadian disaster response ends as our work finishes in fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, AB.

When a catastrophic wildfire swept through parts of Fort McMurray, AB in May 2016, it left a swath of devastation behind. More than 2,400 buildings, most of them homes, were incinerated in the intense flames.

The city’s entire population (more than 60,000) was evacuated for nearly a month. When those whose houses weren’t touched by the fire were allowed to return, they found fridges and freezers full of rotting food.

Samaritan’s Purse offered our services to the city and municipal officials invited us in to help residents. We transported one of our specially equipped Disaster Response Unit tractor trailers to Fort McMurray and set up at Fort City Church.

For two months we organized, trained and equipped volunteers to:

  • Move fridges and freezers out of homes for curbside pickup and disposal.
  • Search through the ashes of homes, looking for keepsakes, valuables and heirlooms that might have survived the flames.
  • Dig through the remains of partially burned houses, and homes that were demolished to create fire breaks, in order to rescue photos and other valuables for homeowners.

In total, more than 930 volunteers worked for over 7,500 hours to complete almost 830 work orders. This made our Fort McMurray disaster response the second largest in Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s history (the largest was our response to the calamitous 2013 southern Alberta floods).

Three Samaritan's Purse volunteers dig through ash

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers gave more than 7,500 hours of work in order to help families affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire.

“I feel like I want to know more about Samaritan’s Purse, because it’s been really awesome having you here,” said Sheri after volunteers spent several hours sifting through ash at her burned home.

“You guys are amazing,” said Barbara, another Fort McMurray resident. “Not just for moving our fridge out of the house, but for the prayer and the feeling of compassion. This means a lot to us.”

Crisis-trained Rapid Response Team chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada worked alongside volunteers. Together, volunteers and chaplains were able to show residents “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, ESV).

We know more disasters are inevitable in Canada and around the world. You can be part of our responses through your prayers and financial support.