Nine-year old Julia is concerned enough about the wildfires in Alberta that she came to church on Sunday to pray.
Wildfires in Alberta
Over the weekend there were over 100 active wildfires across Alberta, including 38 listed as out of control. More hectares of forest have gone up in smoke by early May than burned all of last year. Over 29,000 Albertans evacuated from their homes.
The ongoing crisis made national and international headlines. The NY Times and the Guardian reported on May 5th “Thousands forced to evacuate as wildfires ravage western Canada.”
On Saturday, the provincial government declared a provincial state of emergency as a result of the growing wildfires. I can’t imagine how frightening it must be to leave your home without knowing when you can return and without knowing what your community will look like when you do.
The Heat and Sounds of Fire
A photographer in the crisis zone, Kyle Britain, said “Being near volatile wildfires is a truly humbling and frightening experience. You can hear the roar of trees being incinerated in seconds, feel the radiant heat of big bursts of flame, and feel the fire sucking in air from all around it.”
The leader who prayed with Julia on Sunday morning said she was quite concerned by what she saw on TV. Burned houses. Raging forest fires. Kids her age seeking shelter in crisis centres, apart from their home and friends and school.
Concern and Support
One of my colleagues lives on the edge of a major centre in Central Alberta. She wrote, “Last evening was a little more adventure than we are used to. There was an evacuation alert that included to one mile away from us. So, we did a practice pack, including photos that are still in our vehicle. And we are kind of the neighbourhood contact that people check into when they don’t know what’s going on, so a couple doorbell rings, multiple texts. Thank the Lord that shortly after midnight, that evacuation alert next to us was cancelled because crews had the fire under control. Very grateful to wake up in our own bed this morning. Our prayers and our hearts go out to those who are displaced or have lost property.”
Tom Boxal is a fellow pastor in Drayton Valley. Two years he moved there from Manitoba. 7,000 residents evacuated from Drayton Valley. He shared on Facebook, “At our upcoming District Conference this coming Wednesday one of the questions is what does it mean to be part of the PAOC. Well let me tell you the prayers and support that I feel from all of you across our district and across our nation, the texts that I have received tell me that I am part of an amazing family.”
Family of Neighbours
Political opponents suspended their election campaigns. The two party leaders met to discuss response to help Albertans. Firefighters from Ontario and Quebec arrived on Saturday to support the effort. 27 students from Lakeland College Emergency Training Centre helped in Parkland county. Neighbours helping neighbours, within our provincial borders and from across the country.
One provincial leader noted, “Across the province, regular Albertans are stepping up. They are opening their homes and their hearts. Albertans are resilient, we’re tough, and we’re kind. We will get through this together.”
Churches like Spruce Grove Community Church stepped up. They served lunch for any evacuated persons. They opened their Fellowship Hall during the day for all evacuees from Drayton Valley. “Come and sit, relax, have a drink or a snack. We will have family-friendly movies playing for your children and have a green space out back for the children to play in. We have the capacity for up to 100 patrons. You are welcome!!”
To Julia, and others like her, look to God in crisis and look for the helpers. Both will be there.
Have you or someone you know been affected by the fires? Do you need assistance? Please a comment below.
Hope grows here. We share stories that inspire people, build faith, and offer lasting purpose.
We’d love to have you Subscribe to REVwords. We’ll put helpful content into your inbox Mondays and Fridays.