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Iowans Aid Wildfire Evacuees in Alberta

Some Iowa disaster workers are among those now in Alberta to help with aid to wildfire evacuees. (
Some Iowa disaster workers are among those now in Alberta to help with aid to wildfire evacuees. (
May 13, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - The wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, has forced residents of the entire community out of their homes, leaving an urgent need for places to sleep, plus food, water and basic supplies. While the local Red Cross has been helping out, it also has flown in disaster workers from south of the Canadian border -- including a few from Iowa.

"It's somewhat unusual for us to go across borders, between Red Cross societies," said Leslie Schaffer, a regional executive for several Iowa Red Cross chapters, "and so it really is kind of an illustration of the impact of the fire."

Iowa Red Cross workers are part of the support teams at local shelters in Edmonton, Calgary and other cities in Alberta where evacuees have been taken. Schaffer said Iowans can donate to the Canadian wildfire response effort through their local Red Cross chapter. The need for assistance is particularly urgent because of the size, strength and speed at which the fire has moved, she said.

"When they evacuate so quickly, people leave behind a lot of their possessions," she said. "I mean, really, it's just about getting out with what they have with them, and so there's a lot of emotional impact on folks."

With the fire destroying at least 2,400 homes and other buildings, Schaffer said most of the people of Fort McMurray have no idea what they might return to.

"Right now," she said, "so many people, they don't know whether their homes are still standing or whether they've been lost in the fire."

Of the 50 American Red Cross disaster workers brought to Alberta, so far three are from Iowa.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA