Helping evacuees on the Highway

Submitted by Jeffrey Fafard

I had been watching the news in the beginning of May and was anxious, wondering how we could help.

Two of my friends and I decided to start collecting supplies to go up north and do whatever we could to help. 

We had a truck full of supplies (water, food, fuel) to give to evacuees on the road. I planned our routes, identifying what roads were currently blocked or open, contacting people in need, contacting shelters and consulting with their needs, contacting other volunteers who were also headed north with supplies, and posting on social media about what we needed to help evacuees, so we could ensure we were collecting the most critical supplies to donate. 

 

We teamed up with other trucks in Wandering River and started a convoy throughout the area.
— Jeffrey Fafard

We stopped in Plamondon, Lac La Biche, Beaver Lake, Grassland, Boyle and more. After driving around all night, the four other trucks returned to Edmonton, transferring some of their supplies to us - as we continued up to Fort McMurray. 

As I had been coordinating with those in need in camps north of the city, my team was allowed through the roadblock in Fort McMurray. We drove through the flaming & smoky city in the morning and kept pushing on.

Winds shifted hard and blocked the highway while we were driving, leaving us stuck with around 400 other vehicles. We waited, and waited, and waited.

We started to distribute water/gatorade and food to other people waiting on the highway. We engaged with a lot of people and tried to keep everyone happy. I personally talked with someone who was worried about whether his condo had burned down. He said it was right beside the main road through Fort McMurray. It just so happened that I took a photo of his condo building as we were driving by and I could show him that it was untouched. It made his day when I showed him the photo, it was a great feeling. 

When the road reopened, we dropped off remaining supplies at the Wandering River camp and headed home. 

After I was back in Edmonton, I kept sharing information about what was still needed to help evacuees. Lots of people were referring to old social media posts with incorrect information on what help or donations were required. 

During the following days, I drove to Lac La Biche, Boyle & Athabasca and visited the evacuee camps to physically confirm with camp leaders about what they needed. I was the source of information for many donors. I was also in contact with firefighters and emergency response team overseeing the operations around Fort McMurray, and was able to compile a list of feel good items for the “boys." That ranged from headphones, phone chargers, underwear, cigarettes, candy, chocolate bars, etc., which I dropped off for them. 

I was proud to be part of a team helping evacuees.

It was amazing to see everyone come together.