Thousands of Fort McMurray fire evacuees pack into Calgary schools
4 post-secondary campuses are approaching 1,500 evacuees, with a capacity of 2,000
As Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees continue to arrive in Calgary, dorm room accommodations at four Calgary schools are filling up fast but emergency officials say, we will take and settle all who come.
"Our home is your home," Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said at the University of Calgary reception centre Sunday afternoon.
"It is our honour, it is our pride to be able to look after you while you are here. I know this is a really difficult time, but know that you have an entire community looking after you."
He said there are lots of free things to do in Calgary for people with Fort McMurray identification.
Pools, leisure centres, the Calgary Zoo and the Telus Spark Centre are all no charge "for the foreseeable future," he said.
Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) chief Tom Sampson said the total number of evacuees in Calgary schools is "approaching 1,500," but the city is able to take many more.
The University of Calgary has made additional rooms available bringing the total spaces available in dorm rooms at four schools to 2,000.
"We will attempt to accommodate the number of people that come to Calgary and I saw that carefully," Sampson said.
"If we were hit with a total of 3,000 people, we would make it work. It wouldn't be in the kind of facilities you are seeing here now, we would have to move to mass lodging. We have been in touch with the Stampede board and they are prepared for that. We have the beds and stretchers if we need to."
Mass lodging is where cots are set up in a facility like the Saddledome or a gymnasium.
"That is not optimal circumstances, you are sleeping with 100 of your best friends in the same room and that is a challenge," he acknowledged.
Sampson noted that the number of Fort McMurray residents in Calgary staying at schools could be a fraction of the total number.
"In a classic evacuation, only about five per cent of the population actually goes to a shelter, we understand that this might be a slighter higher case, but that gives you a bit of a sample of how many people might be in Calgary."
Nenshi urged evacuees to register with the Canadian Red Cross to help the organization manage communications and numbers. That can be done online or by phone at 1-888-350-6070.
He also hopes Calgarians will review their emergency preparedness plan, just to be proactive.
With files from Kate Adach