Red Cross raises $299 million for Fort McMurray wildfire recovery effort

The Canadian Red Cross raised $299 million for recovery efforts in Fort McMurray following the wildfire.

'Outpouring of support ... quickly turned a devastating situation into Canada's moment to shine'

Workers put out markers around a devastated area of Timberlea in Fort McMurray on June as members of the community slowly returned back into their homes after the wildfire. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The Canadian Red Cross has raised $299 million for recovery efforts in Fort McMurray following the wildfire.

While individual Canadians donated $165 million, the federal and provincial governments added $104 million and $30 million in matching funds respectively.

"The Alberta wildfire was an unprecedented disaster, but the outpouring of support that came as a result brought hope along with it and quickly turned a devastating situation into Canada's moment to shine," said CEO Conrad Sauve.

"Canadians were touched by seeing fellow Canadians being evacuated ... and responded tremendously," he said. "We have got donations from every part of the country."

More than 2,600 Red Cross volunteers and staff worked to process donations from more than one million Canadians, he said.

So far, the Red Cross has allocated $146 million to individuals and families — including $84.4 million in direct cash assistance for food, clothing, medical costs and transportation, Sauve said.

Sauve also announced the Red Cross will use $50 million to help Fort McMurray residents without insurance or with insufficient insurance make rent or mortgage payments and replace furniture, appliances and household goods.

"The Red Cross — we don't pass a judgment on why people need help," Sauve said. "We help those in need — that is the humanitarian imperative of what we do."  

Money will also be set aside to help residents with costs of building new homes, or repairing damages homes.

Community groups helping in the recovery, such as food banks, will get $50 million, while $30 million is available to small businesses for help with recovery.

Disaster preparedness programs will be funded with $12 million.

'Beginning of a long journey'

Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs Danielle Larivee said the province will use its matching fund to focus on three areas: community partnership grants for charitable non-profits, Indigenous and faith-based groups; small business relief; and post-disaster wellness support for residents.

"We know this is just the beginning of a long journey," she said. 

Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake thanked the Red Cross for helping the community over the past three months, beginning with the complex effort to relocate 88,000 people following the evacuation.

"The Red Cross was there with their incredible resources."

She said her office received money from piggy banks and got cheques from seniors living on fixed incomes to help with the recovery.

"To every individual who supported this cause, you have my undying gratitude," she said.

Blake also noted that Wednesday's news conference in Fort McMurray was held exactly three months to the hour after she received an update on the advancing wildfire.

"We knew we had a bad day ahead fighting fires, but we had no idea that we would be evacuating every living soul in Fort McMurray that day."

In June, the province announced the cost for fighting the massive fire was $615 million.