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Yellowknifers rally for Fort McMurray victims
$2,000 collected at fundraiser held Friday afternoon at Sombe K'e Plaza; GNWT sends two aircraft to help with fire response

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Yellowknifers raised $2,000 for victims of the Fort McMurray wildfire at a last-minute fundraiser in Sombe K'e Plaza on Friday.

Co-organizer Garett Cochrane said both the Alberta and federal governments will match that total, meaning "Support and Solidarity for Fort McMurray" is actually responsible for $6,000 in donations. The event was held over the lunch hour, gathering about 100 people in the park to pray, donate and think about the people who have had their lives so tragically affected by the fires in the northern Alberta community.

The group was treated to soup and bannock and entertainment by musician Grey Gritt.

Relief supplies were also collected at the event - everything from food to diapers to hygiene products and clothing.

Cochrane said a group of concerned citizens saw what was going on in Fort McMurray and knew they had to do something.

That was mid-week, and by Friday the fundraiser had come together.

"For as quick as we organized it, with what little time and resources we had, I think it was quite a success," Cochrane said. "It goes to show how much this community can really rally in times of great need for our neighbours."

Cochrane said his co-organizer Nancy MacNeill deserves much of the credit for getting the event organized in a hurry, as do the NWT Native Women's Association, Canadian North and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

At the event, Justice Minister Louis Sebert announced the Government of the Northwest Territories had dispatched two aircraft to help fight the fires in the Fort McMurray area.

"Our officials have been in contact with Alberta to offer any assistance that we can and our Electra water bomber and Bird Dog spotter plane have been requested and have now been dispatched," Sebert announced to cheers from the crowd. He added the tragedy hits home for him because he is from Fort Smith, and Fort McMurray is in the Municipality of Wood Buffalo which comes right up to the Alberta-NWT border. He said it is relatives and friends who were

being affected.

On top of the air support, the GNWT also announced last week it was making a donation of $50,000 to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Fires Appeal.

Dawn Curtis, spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) stated in an e-mail the aircraft left from their home base in Hay River with seven crew members on board. She added the planes were headed for the Slave Lake, Alberta fire base and would be directed by the Alberta Fire Operations. According to Curtis, ENR made the aircraft available for two weeks but then can be recalled if they are needed at home.

Dettah residents Priscilla and Alphonse Crapeau were among those who turned out for the event. The couple lived in Fort McMurray in 2001.

"We're here to support Fort McMurray. It's sad what happened there," Priscilla said.

Alphonse said that it was devastating to see what has happened to the beautiful city they once called home. The couple said they had been in touch with a cousin who was able to evacuate safely.

RCMP Insp. Colin White was also at the fundraiser along with several other Mounties. He said two former colleagues in Yellowknife - Rob and Jolene Nason - both RCMP sergeants, are now stationed in Fort McMurray. He said his heart goes out to them and all his fellow Mounties in the Fort McMurray area who helped others in the evacuation while their own homes were at risk.

"I was stationed there myself for four years in the 1980s," White said. "A bunch of them have probably lost their own houses but they have to stay focused on their jobs. It won't sink in until later, until it's all over. But when you are right in the middle of things, you don't have time to worry - you have to do your job."

Mayor Mark Heyck thanked the crowd and those who had donated and pointed out that Yellowknifers are famous for their generosity in times of crisis. He added the city will be focusing its own firesmarting efforts on vulnerable pockets of the city, such as forested areas where there is more fuel for


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