Fort McMurray residents lend a helping hand to B.C. wildfire evacuees

As more than 180 wildfires in B.C. rage out of control, forcing around 7,000 people from their homes, some Fort McMurray residents are stepping up to help the evacuees.

Residents step up to help with donations of food, water, gas as wildfires rage in B.C.

From left to right: Robert Berube, Ben Brommeland and Kristopher Mercer, members of The Postmen. The group of Fort McMurray residents is gathering donations of food, water and gas to drive to Kamloops for B.C. residents displaced by wildfires. (The Postmen/Facebook)

More than 180 wildfires continue to rage out of control in B.C., forcing around 7,000 people from their homes. It's a disaster that feels eerily familiar for Martin Frost.

Frost was working as a firefighter with Suncor when a massive wildfire hit Fort McMurray in May 2016. As the entire city evacuated, he stayed behind to help douse flames. He vividly remembers the long days of fighting an impossible battle. 

"It was just non stop, it was actually really relentless," he said. "I have a background in forest firefighting, and the one up here didn't follow a lot of the rules — it didn't sleep at night, it didn't slow down."

Help from strangers kept him and his crew afloat. In the early days of fighting that fire, there was no better feeling than seeing five Edmonton fire trucks arrive to help, he said.

Frost is one of many Fort McMurray residents who are now mobilizing to help B.C. residents and fire crews as the entire province remains under a state of emergency.

A wildfire burns on a mountain behind an RV park office in Cache Creek in the early morning hours of Saturday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Residents are banding together through social media to assemble care kits, emergency supplies, food, water and gas for volunteers to drive to evacuation centres in Kamloops.

Frost and a few friends are taking donations and filling up their trucks with supplies, and will be driving to B.C. this weekend.

As a firefighter, Frost said things like cough lozenges and medicine, eye drops, Red Bull and Gatorade helped him keep going during the Fort McMurray wildfire. 

Water, Gatorade, snack bars and gas are just some of the items immediately needed in the wake of a major evacuation, he said.

Alberta Wildfire Information Officer Melinda Paplawski says Alberta is sending resources to fight the wildfires in B.C., after the province formally asked for its help Saturday morning.

Around 100 people, including 60 firefighters and support personnel, will be heading to B.C. by Monday.

'Loving your neighbour as you love yourself'

Kristopher Mercer is a member of The Postmen, a group of around 15 Good Samaritans who mobilized during the Fort McMurray wildfire to provide gas and food to people stranded on the highway out of the city.

The group's name comes from The Postman, a post-apocalyptic film based on a nomadic drifter.

The group is back in business, gathering donations of food, water and gas to drive out to Kamloops.

"This is the second time we've done it, so we kind of know what we're doing now," said Mercer, who was born and raised in Fort McMurray.

This is the second time we've done it, so we kind of know what we're doing now.- Kristopher Mercer, 

Mercer said the group acts as initial help for evacuees, as bigger humanitarian aid organizations get organized and get evacuees registered.

"We're basically the first step. We get in there, we get some help and we just tide it over until the big organizations can get in there and start assisting and helping out with more permanent help," he said.

Right now, Mercer is taking donations at his Edmonton home. As soon as the group's vehicles are filled, they're leaving.

Hygiene packs, with small bottles of toiletries and clothing, are what's most needed right now, he said.

"We also assist with the fire crews and stuff, so they're asking for things you can eat quickly: granola bars, Gatorade, this sort of thing," he added.

The Postmen can also accommodate pets and are opening up their homes to evacuees looking for a place to stay.

Anyone willing to donate or help can contact them through their Facebook page

"It's just a matter of opening up your doors and letting people in," Mercer said. "Loving your neighbour as you love yourself."

Some of the supplies handed out by The Postmen during the Fort McMurray wildfire evacuation. (The Postmen/Facebook)