Lloydminster residents and businesses have been scrambling to respond to an SOS from fire evacuees from Fort McMurray for the past week with a sense of urgency.
Tomorrow, several local bands led by Artificial Lift will be putting on a free concert at 6:30 p.m. at the Bud Miller Amphitheatre to raise cash and donations for the relief effort.
Boundary Ford, which began accepting donations last week, will also be at the concert to continue their relief efforts.
Proceeds from a barbecue held during Saturday’s Muck Run were donated to the Canadian Red Cross as the pace of help picked up around the city while word of the the fire crisis in Fort Mac spread.
The first two families on the escape from their homes in Fort Mac checked into the Microtel Inn & Suites in Lloydminster last Wednesday with six more arrivals the following day.
Manager Ronny Sanorjo said both families were visibly shaken by the ordeal.
“One couple checked in last night with their animals and they said they haven’t had enough sleep and stuff,” he said.
He reported MasterBuilt Hotels, his parent company, made 10 rooms available in Lloydminster at no charge for six nights including free breakfast.
“We’re getting a lot of donations from the community and there are people offering meals and stuff,” said Sanorjo.
“We’re just waiting for them to come.”
He had forms in-need-families to identify their basic needs, which are still being met this week.
Microtel hotels in Whitecourt and Bonnyville are nearly 100 per cent booked, with evacuees given free hospitality there as well, reported Sanorjo.
Chris Jacobsen, operations manager of Lloydminster’s Titanium Tubing, got back in town at 3 a.m. Thursday morning after he and a fellow employee delivered a 40-ft. C-Can container — loaded with supplies — to Wandering River south of Fort Mac.
“We sent 14,000-lbs of water and diapers and food – we pretty much cleaned Sobey’s out,” said Jacobsen.
“We unloaded it at the fire hall and drove back.”
From his eyewitness report, his impression was they saw a “lot of lost souls.”
He made a point of adding that, despite everything that’s happened in Fort Mac with the wildfires, most of the people he met showed positive attitudes.
“We were welcomed with open arms,” said Jacobsen.
His employees began loading a second C-Can at 6 a.m. Thursday morning that was driven up to the heritage centre at Lac la Biche.
“We’re shooting for 20,000 lbs of goods,” said Jacobsen that day.
“The goal is to clean out the Co-op Marketplace.”
Jacobsen also set up a barbecue outside the Co-op Thursday to accept donations and non perishables.
He and his employees raised more than $15,000 in cash donations from willing vendors and do-gooders in the first two days of their campaign.
While all that was going on, smoke from the Fort Mac area blew into the Lloydminster region, but the smokey conditions didn’t last long enough for Prairie North Health Region to issue a health advisory.
“If we do issue a warning, it would be for high risk individuals, those with asthma and breathing problems to stay indoors,” said Ken Startup, acting environmental health manager on Thursday.
Wendy Abbott, owner of A Bit Extreme, an indoor fun centre, decided to help by providing free relaxation for the families arriving in Lloydminster last week.
“We’re under the impression there are six families in town; so far so we’ve offered them to come here for free and offer rides if need be,” said Abbott Thursday.
The fun house also offered 50 per cent off for anyone that brought in donations for the Fort Mac cause.
“I have a large family and if we were displaced—it’s heart wrenching,” said Abbott, explaining her motivation to help out.
“There is so much outpouring it’s amazing.”
She noted 10 minutes before she spoke to the Source, a man called and volunteered to deliver their donations along with his own.
“That’s amazing,” said Abbott.