Region bands together for Fort McMurray fire victims

Watching the footage of giant flames creeping closely to vehicles trying to flee Fort McMurray took Beth Burton-Krahn's breath away.

Watching the footage of giant flames creeping closely to a convoy of vehicles trying to flee Fort McMurray took Beth Burton-Krahn’s breath away.

The Esquimalt councillor had never seen anything like it, and couldn’t help but wonder how things would unfold should the same thing happen in Greater Victoria.

“A lot of us have friends and family who have moved there to work,” she said. “I thought wow, this is something to carry as a local government. I tried to imagine us coming back to the table, dealing with the return of thousands of residents.”

A month after the devastating fire tore through the northern Alberta city, the process of rebuilding still weighed heavily on Burton-Krahn’s mind, so she decided to do something.

Burton-Krahn sat down with Saanich councillor Colin Plant in early May, then reached out to other local politicians to put together a fundraiser in support of fire victims as the city starts the long journey of rebuilding.

Now, more than 15 people are involved, including officials from local fire departments, to host the fundraiser on June 17 in Centennial Square. The family-friendly event, which takes place from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., will feature a beer garden, food trucks and a number of musicians, including Oliver Swain, Daniel Lapp and the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra and Cookelidh. The goal is to raise between $10,000 to $15,000.

“It’s (rebuilding) the real slog, hard work time and we thought it would be kind of a shot in the arm to show our local governments support for colleagues, friends and family,” Burton-Krahn said.

Since June 1, thousands of residents have returned to certain neighbourhoods of Fort McMurray to sift through what’s left of their community. The blaze destroyed 2,400 structures (nearly 10 per cent of the city), and forced more than 80,000 residents to flee. At its height, the fire, nicknamed “the beast” by firefighters, spanned more than 500,000 hectares — an area bigger than Prince Edward Island.

Touched by the disaster, last month a group of Victoria residents drove a large truck and trailer filled with donations to Alberta. The group, With Love, Victoria, tracked the journey on its Facebook page, dropping off the supplies in Spruce Grove — a community located just outside of Edmonton.