Fort Mac Ties

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Biking into the Wood Buffalo.

Fort Smith, NWT borders the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Friends and I biked in RMWB a lot in the summer. If you enlarge the image, you can see the RMWB sign. Photo taken August, 2007.

While I have only been Fort McMurray once — passing through the airport a few years ago — I know a lot about the city. As the editor of what was then called the Slave River Journal (now the Northern Journal), I was responsible for covering the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. I talked to the politicians and business people serving the area as well as some of the residents. As the wildfire blazed through Fort Mac this past week, my heart has been hurting. I can’t even imagine how the people of Wood Buffalo must be feeling.

I have no family or friends in Fort Mac but I have ties there. I learned about its growing pains and other issues that often spilt the communities surrounding the city. It had drugs and crime but was also the setting for the TV comedy Mixed Blessings. (I love that show.) Fort Mac was where many Canadians found work and in turn, spent that hard-earned cash back home. In fact, when my husband and I were in Newfoundland two years ago, the first people we met while hiking on the East Coast Trail were two guys who had just returned from working in the oil sands near Fort Mac. They were home for a couple weeks off.

There are some who say Fort McMurray is getting its comeuppance, whether it be for pollution or the oil sands or its relatively wealthy residents. It’s BS and extremely hurtful to those who have made their home there, especially when some of those homes are gone.

The wildfire doesn’t wipe the environmental slate clean and there are still questions about energy processing there. However, let’s remember that people lived there and some have lost everything — homes, businesses, pets — and deserve to be treated with respect. Thankfully, Canadians everywhere, from LacMégantic to Cranbrook, are answering the call for help and pitching in to help the city rise again. To clear away the ashes and start rebuilding. To put pieces of lives back together.

Here are some details on how to help: http://bit.ly/1SYRRoC

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