First Nations members and communities in and around Fort McMurray, Alberta, are among those under siege in a massive wildfire that has caused the evacuation of 80,000 people—the entire population of this city that is a hub for production in the notorious oil sands region.
“We are all in a state of shock over the recent wildfires that have overtaken the city of Fort McMurray, AB. Many ACFN members living in the city have lost everything,” said Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in a statement on its website. “The ACFN has declared a state of emergency. We will be doing everything in our power to assist our people in this tragic time. We are requesting all members report their locations and urgent needs to our office so we can ensure our members are taken care of.”
ACFN is miles away, but many of its members live in the city, which was entirely evacuated on Tuesday May 3. Fort McMurray No. 468 First Nation, about 45 minutes' drive outside the city, urged its residents to be ready to flee.
“Please remember to keep enough gas in your vehicle to be able to make it to Lac La Biche or Grassland if we have to be evacuated,” the community urged members on its Facebook page. “Leave your phone ringers on and answer your doors if you hear knocks. Keep in touch with family members and plan in case we need to be evacuated.”
The flames forced the biggest evacuation in Alberta’s history, CBC News reported. Shell Oil closed at least one of its mines, and many companies welcomed evacuees into their worker camps.
It was five years ago this month that another wildfire in the province destroyed nearly half the town of Slave Lake, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) noted.
As of Wednesday May 4, the fire, which started on Sunday and flared up to its current disastrous proportions on Tuesday May 3, was still raging out of control.