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Like you, we have been watching the situation in Fort McMurray over the last 24 hours and been saddened by the disaster that is unfolding there. This is the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history. Unparalleled. Devastating.

As part of the Canadian Chamber’s network, we have a member in the community - Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce. They have more than 500 members who will be worried about their employees, their businesses and their futures. This type of disaster is hard to watch from afar. It’s even tougher to imagine being in the thick of it – fleeing with the clothes on your back and not knowing what will happen while you’re gone. Neighbouring communities are taking in strangers and offering refuge for people and pets. We know that in these communities, such as Lac La Biche and Edmonton, communities both large and small, our local chambers are part of the grassroots efforts to provide for those being evacuated. It’s a network like no other.

Apart from the personal stories of loss, there will be business continuity issues in the days to come, once the fire situation is resolved. The humanitarian needs must come first.

The strength of a network is that when one of us is hurting, we are acutely aware of the need to help. We know that our provincial counterpart, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC), will be part of the Provincial Operations Centre as they were during the floods in Calgary and High River; we will remain in touch with the ACC as the situation in Fort McMurray progresses.

As we write this, the fire is still raging and the evacuation orders are still in place. Today, the firefighters will try to get the fire under control. We wish all firefighters and volunteers strength as they cope with this situation and its enormity. We stand ready to help our counterparts in the network in whatever way we can.

It’s ironic that this grand scale disaster is occurring during national Emergency Preparedness Week but serves as an all-too-real example of how this could happen in our own community. We all hope that something like this never happens “at home”.

For those affected by the tragedy, our thoughts are with you. Albertans are known for their toughness in the face of adversity, and we know you will face this situation with strength and resilience.

If you can, please donate to the Red Cross by visiting RedCross.ca or simply texting "RedCross" to 30333 to make a $5 donation.

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