Tue | Apr 24, 2018

Jamaicans flee Fort McMurray fire

Published:Friday | May 13, 2016 | 3:28 PMNeil Armstrong
In this May 7, 2016 file photo, a wildfire burns south of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Anthony Wisdom
Vonette Martin-Mascoe
Derval Davis with his wife and their two children.

Fort McMurray, Alberta:

Although they were among more than 80,000 people who had to flee their homes in Fort McMurray, Alberta because of the raging wildfire, several Jamaicans are glad that they and their families are safe in Edmonton.
Since Tuesday, the fire caused by the unseasonably hot temperatures combined with dry conditions has transformed the boreal forest in much of Alberta into a tinderbox, reports Metro Calgary.
Ainsworth Wisdom, president of the Association of Jamaicans in Fort McMurray, has been in touch with just a little over one hundred Jamaicans who were able to find accommodation after being evacuated.
“Majority seemed settled, there were a few that were stranded,” said Wisdom, noting that there was a 34-week pregnant Jamaican woman with a two-year-old child who got stranded on the highway but they were picked up by residents heading south.
He said many Jamaicans made use of the evacuation centre where they were registered.
“The people of Alberta are extremely giving and accommodating so we have resources available to us that we have managed to tap into and we’re continuously sharing the information with every Jamaican as we manage to get a hold of them.”
The resources that are available include healthcare, bedding, clothing, toiletries and food.
Wisdom said the province is also setting up free housing for the first three months for families in need of it in Edmonton.
He said there is also subsidised housing if persons need it and some hotels are providing heavily discounted rates. Some restaurants are providing free meals for evacuees as well.
Wisdom, his wife and their three kids are staying at a friend’s home in Edmonton and plan to find temporary housing soon.
Derval Davis and his family are at friend’s home in Edmonton where the city has been providing some basic necessities.
“We are able to make a little way now and there are programs available that we just need to tap into, like the employment insurance, we just need to register for that so that we can get back something.”
He said the City of Edmonton is also giving reimbursements to people who can prove that they are from Fort McMurray.
“There’s a few resources here we can tap in for the time being but for the immediate future we’re not sure when we’ll be getting back to Fort McMurray because right now they’re still doing an assessment.”
He was only able to flee his home with some important documents, passports and clothes for his children.
Waterways, an adjoining community to Denholm Gate, where he lives, was burnt down to the ground.
Vonette Martin-Mascoe said her family got out of Wood Buffalo just in time and was able to secure all their important documents and some clothes.
“That’s one of the areas that, well it’s partially destroyed, so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that our property is okay.”
Although everyone from his family is okay, Peter Angus of Thickwood is a little concerned about his home.
He said his wife, who teaches in Fort McMurray, was the only family member who was able to go back home and she picked up just one suit of clothes and their documents.
His family is staying with a Jamaican family that has lived in Edmonton for 40 years and reached out to them to say their place was available.
Angus works with a power company and was heading back to Fort McMurray on Friday with a utility construction team to see what could be salvaged and to rebuild.
The Jamaican High Commission in Toronto has been monitoring the situation and has asked that Jamaicans in Fort McMurray make contact with the High Commission for assistance as necessary.
“This is a terrible and catastrophic ordeal for the city and people of Fort McMurray and the province of Alberta, says Janice Miller, High Commissioner for Jamaica to Canada.
As a gesture of support, members of the High Commission will be making contributions to the Canadian Red Cross.
The High Commission is encouraging Jamaicans in Canada to consider helping the residents of Fort McMurray in any way that they can.