Edmonton

'Only so much one town can do': Fort McMurray volunteers send last truck of wildfire aid to B.C.

Fort McMurray aid group trucks its last donation to wildfire victims in B.C., even though volunteers say more help is still needed.

'The sad part is this is it for us but this fire is still going to go on for a long time,' says volunteer

Volunteers pack the last few boxes en route to B.C. wildfire victims in a Fort McMurray parking lot. (David Thurton/CBC)

Although a group of Fort McMurray volunteers have sent an estimated $500,000 in donations to British Columbia wildfire victims, their fifth truckload of aid marks bittersweet milestone.

"I firmly believe that when this last truck leaves I will be bawling my eyes out with happiness," Fort McMurray volunteer Stephanie Klaamas said Monday. "The sad part is this is it for us, but this fire is still going to go on for a long time. They are still enduring this tragedy."

Klaamas said she wished Fort McMurray could keep sending truckloads of help but added "there's only so much one town can do considering we are recovering from our own tragedy."

Klaamas and the other volunteers began collecting donations 12 days ago after a B.C. wildfire victim solicited advice from Fort McMurray residents who underwent a similar wildfire ordeal more than a year ago.
Stephanie Klaamas said she is proud to see so many other communities running donation drives for B.C. wildfire victims. (David Thurton/ CBC)

Then Klaamas teamed up with local volunteer firefighter Marty Frost to help lead the relief effort.

"I thought, 'I am taking action now — I can't wait,' " Klaamas said. "I remember what it was like for our town when help trickled in."

Klaamas then got the word out on social media to solicit donations. "Pretty much begging and groveling," she said. "And I didn't have to do that for so long because the town was so supportive."

'Makes me proud to be Canadian'

She said she's proud to see so many communities doing similar donation drives.

"It humbles me and makes me proud to be Canadian," she said.

Troy Sheridan drove one shipment to B.C. from Fort McMurray because he said he felt like he needed to give back.
Troy Sheridan operates a forklift at a Fort McMurray donation drop-off centre. (David Thurton/ CBC)

He said it's hard for him to describe, but ever since the Fort McMurray wildfire he has felt that something was missing in his life.

Sheridan said being on the ground in B.C. and volunteering his time restored what he lost in a way that making a cash donation probably could not.

"Whatever got broken in me," Sheridan said holding back tears, "This has brought it back."

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitter or contact him via email.

now