Alberta town rallies to assist fire evacuees

World Today

Alberta town rallies to assist fire evacuees

Canadian firefighters believe they are gaining the upper hand against the 230,000 hectare wildfire near Fort McMurray.

The Red Cross has also drawn up plans to distribute more than $50,000 donated for the evacuees, who are spread all across the Alberta province, including the town of Lac La Biche. 

CCTV’s Roee Ruttenberg reports residents there have been stepping forward.

Alberta town rallies to assist fire evacuees

The Canadian town of Lac La Biche has been extending its hospitality and compassion to thousands of evacuees fleeing wildfires to their north.

A handful of stoplights dot downtown Lac La Biche. No one ever honks. Locals say the traffic in town these days is unusual. But these aren’t usual times.

In recent days, thousands of evacuees fleeing a wildfire in Fort McMurray three hours north have descended on this small town – at one point, outnumbering the local population.

Without blinking, the people of Lac La Biche sprang into action. The mayor of Lac La Biche, Omer Mograbi, says he’s very proud of what they have done for the victims.

The local hardware store, owned by Tony Marczak, has begun giving out free laundry detergent to evacuees.

“I don’t even know who said ‘get ready.’ All of the sudden, bang, and people were here. The county staff, mayor, the council, all the volunteers – they just put in an action plan, and it went from there,” Marczak said.

A popular pizza place offered evacuees free food. Owner Brian Laboucane says he’s been giving out a hundred bowls a day of his famous hangover soup.

This private lodge in town opened up its forty rooms to evacuees. Evacuees Ruth Day and her husband have been staying in one of them – entirely for free.

“We have not run into anybody that did not try to help, in some way, however they could. There was always somebody trying to help,” Day said.

This town is no stranger to devastation. A hundred years ago a fire ripped right through here, destroying everything in its path. A reminder of what can be lost, and what can be rebuilt.

The lakefront town’s slogan is “Welcoming by nature.” Those temporarily here say: they’ll never forget the warm reception.