May 12, 2016 12:02 pm
Updated: May 13, 2016 12:58 pm

Fort McMurray wildfire: Edmonton Expo Centre sees 17,000 evacuees

WATCH ABOVE: The City of Edmonton provides an update on the services at the Northlands reception centre Thursday morning.


A flow of evacuees has been arriving in Edmonton since wildfires hit Fort McMurray and other areas of the Wood Buffalo region last week.

As of Thursday morning, the Edmonton Expo evacuation centre at Northlands had processed 17,000 people since the facility opened its doors to evacuees last Wednesday.

IN PHOTOS: The Fort McMurray fire that displaced 80,000 people

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Northlands reception centre – who and what it’s for

About 12,045 people have registered at the Expo Centre as of Thursday morning. About 402 people stayed overnight at the evacuation centre both Tuesday and Wednesday night, which is a considerable drop from Friday night when the number was at 2,100.

Gerry Clarke, acting emergency reception centre district manager, said many of these people have no other connections in the city and have nowhere else to go.

“This is going to be their home for the next little while and the powers that be are going to do their best to make sure they get something in the near future,” Clarke said Wednesday morning.

“Edmonton has opened their hearts and we appreciate it.”

“We still have those pockets of people that are being evacuated from remote or secluded areas that the initial responders who are assisting remove from the area,” Rob Brekke, emergency support response team coordinator with the City of Edmonton, said.

READ MORE: Viral stomach bug breaks out among Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees at Northlands reception centre

There are plenty of supplies and resources currently to assist those still needing help.

Clarke said they will provide assistance to people for as long as they help.

“It’s maybe not predictable that it’s going to keep going down because there’s other people that have been relying on friends and family to stay there, and as this runs on in duration, it might be time for them to move to something different, or give the people that are helping them out a break,” Gerry Clarke, emergency reception centre manager, said.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees line up for emergency funds in droves for second day

Animals are not allowed inside the reception centre. If you are a wildfire evacuee and need shelter for your pet, you can take your pet to the Animal Care and Control Centre any day between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (13550-163 St.).

The ACCC has accepted many pets belonging to evacuees but is nearing capacity. The centre has access to alternative accommodation sites outside Edmonton for animals needing shelter. 


Officials from the Alberta government arrived on site Friday morning and were looking at setting up assistance for longer-term housing for those in need of a place to stay.

In the meantime, the volunteers and staff at Northlands are doing everything they can to keep people comfortable.

“Northlands has been a fantastic partner, providing three square meals, hot meals, as well as other nutritional elements throughout the entire day,” Brekke said.

“I would suggest that as much as people are still distraught and that awareness of reality is starting to kick in that we have assets here that are dealing with it, and it’s a very positive atmosphere here still.”

READ MORE: Where Fort McMurray fire evacuees can get help and information

Notley said plans are underway to provide longer-term housing for people.

“We’ve asked officials to get to work on this even though we are still in that first phase,” Notley said. “In order to plan this, we need to know what the need is and that’s why it’s so important for people to register.”

Brekke wanted to make it clear that not everyone needs to register at the reception centre; it is for people who need emergency care such as medical assistance, clothing and food. Insurance companies have also set up on site to provide assistance to those who need it.

Mayor Don Iveson echoed those directions late last week.

“If people need accommodations, they should come here. But if they are able to shelter with friends and family… The best thing they can do is register online.”

Watch below: Mayor Don Iveson talks about how Edmonton is welcoming evacuees and praises the work done in the city

Evacuees should contact the Red Cross at 1-888-350-6070 or through its website to register their location. It’s important to register to ensure officials know how to reach you and to verify you got out safely.

Services for evacuees

The City of Edmonton said all city-run facilities are open to Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees free of charge. To date, more than 2,000 evacuees have visited city facilities since they were opened up free of charge on May 5. Judi Rohovi, director of the Terwillegar, Meadows and Clareview rec centres, said the Valley Zoo has been the most popular spot, with about 1,500 people passing through the doors.

More information on the city facilities can be found on the City of Edmonton’s website.

Where Edmontonians can drop off donations

The Edmonton Emergency Relief Service depot is in desperate need of donations, particularly laundry detergent, ready-to-use baby formula, underwear, plus sized clothing and towels.

So far, the society has helped nearly 14,000 evacuees.

“We have received an overwhelming amount of donations,” EERSS spokeswoman Nicole Geoffroy said. “Since Day 1, the items have been coming in, but now that we know what evacuees really need, we have specific donation requirements.”

Donation drop-off locations:

9727-47 Avenue
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

3631-56 Avenue East (Hangar at Edmonton International Airport)
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Watch below: As people fled Fort McMurray and area, the need for everyday basics became apparent. Today, evacuees had a chance to pick up some of those daily necessities. Vinesh Pratap reports.

For the latest information on what items are in need, visit the relief service’s Facebook page.

The Edmonton Emergency Relief Services distribution centre opened at Kingsway Mall Monday morning. It is located inside the old Target space.

Evacuees can pick up items at the relief centre, the downtown location on 104 Street or at the Kingsway Target location.

Donations cannot be dropped off at Northlands and volunteers are not needed on site. If you would like to volunteer, you’re asked to call 780-428-4422 and leave a message.

The Red Cross is accepting monetary donations online or by phone at 1-800-418-1111. As of Wednesday, Canadians had donated more than $60 million to the Red Cross for Fort McMurray relief.

The Edmonton Food Bank is collecting non-perishable food items at major grocery stores and fire halls. Last Friday, the food bank said it was in particular need of small jars of peanut butter, pasta, dry beans and lentils, ready-to-eat non-perishable dinners, rice, toiletries and toiler paper. For more information on how to donate, visit the food bank’s website.

Donations for animals

The Edmonton Humane Society is accepting donations of food and supplies at the shelter located at 13620 – 163 St. The shelter will disperse donations as needed. Check the EHS website for hours or call 780-471-1774.

Corporate donations

Please contact the City of Edmonton’s Emergency Operations Centre at 780-944-6408 to make a corporate donation.

Watch below: 1,800 Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees temporarily call Edmonton home 

If you want to offer help or support, please comment in our live blog below.

As of Friday morning, the Fort McMurray wildfire had grown to 100,000 hectares in size. More than 80,000 people have been forced from their homes.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was originally posted on Friday, May 6, 2016. It was updated most recently at 10 a.m. MT Thursday, May 12, 2016. 

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