Fort McMurray wildfire: Red Cross has raised $60 million and counting

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WATCH ABOVE: Canadians are opening their hearts and their wallets to try and help wildfire evacuees from Fort McMurray. Both the provincial and federal governments are matching donations made to the Red Cross. So far, tens of millions of dollars have been raised. Quinn Ohler looks into where all of that money will go – May 9, 2016

CALGARY – The large amount of money donated to the Red Cross to help Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees is eclipsing public support for past Canadian disasters.

The Canadian Red Cross has already collected $60 million from individuals and corporations. That number doesn’t include additional money coming from Ottawa and the Alberta government, which have both promised to match donations made by individuals.

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“I don’t have a breakdown on what the individual number is yet, but we’ve had very good corporate support,” Red Cross spokeswoman Shelly Makrugin said Tuesday.

She said every disaster is different, “so we don’t compare disasters per se.”

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But at $60 million and counting, donations have already surpassed the $43.3 million Canadians gave during the catastrophic 2013 southern Alberta floods. More than 100,000 people in several communities, including Calgary and High River, were forced from their homes.

Red Cross donations after the 2013 Lac Megantic rail disaster that killed 47 people and destroyed half the community’s downtown totalled $14.8 million.

The 2011 wildfire that destroyed one-third of Slave Lake, Alta., five years ago brought in $5.5 million.

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Makrugin said the Red Cross is in “emergency mode” in the Fort McMurray area. Cash is being used to make sure those affected get basics such as cots, blankets and hygiene kits.

The agency provides help on top of what insurance companies and government programs offer.

“The phase right now is emergency response, which is covering people’s basic needs, and it will also be used for the recovery and the rebuilding phases as well,” she said.

“Needs emerge over time in disasters like this, so all the money we raise is earmarked for people impacted by fires.”

The Red Cross was involved for four years after the Slave Lake fire, which destroyed 400 buildings.

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