Edmonton

Edmonton rallies around Fort McMurray fire evacuees

Free taxi rides and attractions among a number of things being offered

Posted: May 05, 2016
Last Updated: May 05, 2016

Alexandria Tulka enjoying the free rides at West Edmonton Mall. (CBC)

Jomilson Oriza spent 12 hours on the road to get to Edmonton after leaving the smoke and flames of Fort McMurray in his rear view mirror, but in spite of the ordeal he's feeling more grateful than he is exhausted.

Oriza has been overwhelmed by the welcome he and his family have been given since arriving in Alberta's capital.

It took Jomilson Oriza 12 hours to drive to Edmonton from Fort McMurray. (CBC)

"We just want to say thank you for everything people are doing," said Oriza.

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He's one of more than 3000 people who had registered at a temporary reception centre at Northlands Expo centre, Thursday where there over 2000 cots as well as food, water and coffee for people who had to leave their homes at a moment's notice.

Oriza needed to stop three times to get emergency gas along Highway 63, something else he's thankful for.

While he has his own vehicle to get around Edmonton, hundreds of other evacuees who got out of Fort McMurray on buses had to leave their vehicles behind.

But taxi drivers from several Edmonton companies are stepping up to help them offering rides around the city for free.

"We try to help the people who are in pain because they burn out their house, they have nothing and they have nowhere to go right," said Pardip Hans, who has been ferrying indebted evacuees to different parts of Edmonton since Wednesday.

Taxi driver Pardip Hans has been offering free rides to evacuees since Wednesday (CBC)

Restaurants, tire repair shops, pet stores and even vets are offering special deals for those uprooted by the fire.

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The city of Edmonton is allowing free access to all of its swimming pools and gyms, as well as all of its other attractions for evacuees.

There's free admission at the Telus world of science, and on Thursday at West Edmonton Mall where Jomilson Oriza was planning to take his daughters and where many other evacuees like Dale Tulka showed up, along with his three year old girl Alexandria.

Dale Tulka and his wife, Nancy, took their three-year-old daughter to West Edmonton Mall on Thursday. (CBC)

"Kind of keep her occupied type thing so go on some rides today and she'll like that I'm sure, I think I could use some rides," said Tulka.

He said his family had been amazed by the support they've been feeling in Edmonton especially from a woman who had offered them a place to stay out of the blue.

"Our team from the city of Edmonton is doing a phenomenal job on the ground here more than 100 staff working hard to provide support and connect people to resources," said Mayor Don Iveson. "I'm proud of Edmonton right now I tell you," he said.

Jomilson Oriza has no idea what he'll be going back home to in Fort McMurray or when that will  be.

Neither does Dale Tulka, although as of Thursday, he was pretty sure his house was still standing.

While both are in a time of stress and uncertainty, they're getting strength from the kindness of Edmontonians.

gareth.hampshire@cbc.ca

@cbcgareth