Edmonton

One million Canadians have donated to Red Cross campaign for Fort McMurray fire victims

More than one million Canadians have now donated to the massive Red Cross campaign to help Fort McMurray residents forced from their homes almost two months ago.

'This has been a real Canadian moment,' says Conrad Sauvé, president and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross

The Fort McMurray wildfire campaign is the largest and most successful in the organization's post-war history, said Conrad Sauvé, president and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross. (CBC)

More than one million Canadians have now donated to the massive Red Cross campaign to help Fort McMurray residents forced from their homes almost two months ago.

The campaign is the largest and most successful in the organization's post-war history, said Conrad Sauvé, president and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross.

"This has been a real Canadian moment," Sauvé said Tuesday. "A tremendous Canadian moment. I think we need to recognize that, and I think everybody was touched throughout the country by seeing those images of Canadians fleeing this situation."

The campaign has raised more than $136 million so far, and that total does not include matching funds from provincial and federal governments, Sauvé said.

The Red Cross has already spent or committed more than $165 million. Much of that money has been given directly to families or individuals or to local organizations, such as the food bank, he said.

Challenge remains to help those who lost homes

Much of the effort so far has been concentrated on helping people returning to their homes, to make sure they have money for groceries, for example, or to replace thousands of refrigerators that had to be junked.

The wildfire that swept into the city on May 3 forced more than 90,000 from their homes in and around Fort McMurray. The fire destroyed more than 2,400 homes and buildings.

Residents began returning to the region in early June. Those in the three worst-hit neighbourhoods — Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways — may not be back in their homes before the end of summer.

"The challenge now is that some people have lost everything," Sauvé said. "They've lost their homes and they won't be able to return to those homes right away."

The Red Cross will continue to help many of those people for months to come, he said. Case managers will work to help families who will need transitional housing until their homes can be rebuilt.

As time passes, the Red Cross effort will transition from short-term help for people with immediate needs to long-term help for those who lost everything.

"It's going to be more support for fewer people in the coming months," Sauvé said.