Brian Beveridge (left), Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Coordinator, Alberta & Northern Territories, serves hot dogs and coffee to people on Alberta Highway 63 on May 5, 2016. An out-of-control wildfire covering over 10,000 hectares of forest has forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray, the fourth largest city in Alberta. Over 80,000 residents of the northern Alberta city have been evacuated as fire threatens to consume the city and surrounding area. A provincial state of emergency has been declared in Alberta. (PHOTO BY LARRY WONG/POSTMEDIA NETWORK)
While the fires in Fort McMurray have attracted global attention, it’s the response of Albertans that have caught the hearts and minds of the nation.
With relief flooding into the area from all over, it was only natural that Grande Prairie would find a way to help our neighbours to the northeast. That help came in the form of Maj. Brian Beveridge of the local Salvation Army, who is currently stationed on the frontlines of the disaster.
“He’s up with a crew of other Salvation Army personnel from around the province and they’re feeding first responders using our mobile food trucks,” said Maj. Edith Beveridge, Brian’s wife.
Brian flew out of Grande Prairie on May 4 but wasn’t able to enter the Fort McMurray area until May 5 because the highway was too dangerous to drive through.
Brian couldn’t be reached for an interview, but Edith did share that her husband hasn’t spoken to her about the mindset or moral of the 500 people he and his crew of 12 are serving, as everyone is too busy to slow down and talk.
“They have pretty primitive conditions. They’re staying at a college there – as there’s a dining room – and that’s where they prepare the food in the trucks and then take it inside to feed the first responders. He was saying that they are just staying in a communal room on cots in the college and there’s no power or water in the building, just port-a-potties. It’s a little primitive, but that’s OK he’s done it before,” said Edith, adding people are also wearing masks because the smoke is settling.
The Beveridges are no strangers to wildfire disasters as the couple provided relief and counselling during the 2011 Slave Lake fire, which caused more than $750 million in damages and displaced hundreds of people.
“He said it looks quite similar to the Slave Lake fire; where the burned areas are it’s like a war zone basically,” she said.
Edith expressed that while the outpouring of supplies from Albertans is a wonderful thing to see, Grande Prairie residents who wish to help should do so with monetary donations to organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
“We find that being able to go and buy specifically what people need is just much more effective and it also helps to jump start the economy of the areas that are devastated because we try to buy locally. Most charitable organizations find that it becomes a logistical nightmare (to deal with material donations)….It just ends up coming in tractor trailer after tractor trailer and there’s no place to process it and often because people’s homes are gone they don’t need the things right away so it can become a logistical nightmare,” she said.
Salvation Armies across the province will be providing clothing through their thrift stores to Fort McMurray families and will also be accepting donations for the Salvation Army’s Alberta wildfire relief efforts.
Donations can be made at SalvationArmy.ca/albertafires or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY. A $10 donation can also be made by texting FORTMAC to 45678.
Original Article Courtesy Daily Herald Tribune