Fire May Take Our Homes, But it Will Never Take Away Our Spirit

Brian Jean, Leader of Wildrose

The people of Fort McMurray are hurting right now, but there is hope. After touring our city, meeting with first responders and evacuees, I know we will rebuild together and make Fort McMurray better than it has ever been.

Words are not enough to express how nobly first responders acted in the face of adversity. Without question, the men and women keeping order, fighting the fires, and working to support the victims of the wildfire are heroes, and we owe them all our deepest gratitude.

These men and women, many with families of their own, have worked around the clock to contain the fire, with the knowledge that many of their own homes had already been lost. A simple thank you will never be enough — but please know that the people of Fort McMurray are forever grateful.

I am also overwhelmed by the countless Albertans who have opened their hearts, their doors, and their wallets to provide much-needed support to the people of Fort McMurray in their time of greatest need.

It is impossible not be moved by the selflessness of individuals all across our province. As the community of Anzac was under a mandatory evacuation order, we met young men with a trailer full of jerry cans giving away free gas to help families stranded on the highway when they ran out of fuel. I saw fire crews come off 24-hour shifts, ready and willing to go back out to protect the city they love.

There are so many of these stories of hope and generosity that will serve as a foundation upon which we will rebuild.

From a small town of 1,500 on the banks of the Athabasca River, to nearly 100,000 people today, we have known both boom and bust. We are a people that work hard and cherish our time in the great outdoors. We are a city to which people come from great distances in order to seek opportunity. We are a city with heart, and a city that cares deeply about looking after each other and making our community a better place.

Albertans are strong, and they are resilient. It doesn’t matter if you have lived in Alberta your entire life, or have just moved to this bountiful land, setting foot on fertile Alberta soil makes you one of us.

In our time of greatest need, we will need the full support of all levels of government as we recover. Now is the time for governments to make firm commitments to not only rebuild, but to attract investment back to Fort McMurray. All leaders will need to be at our very best to tell the world that Fort McMurray will come back stronger than ever.

Through flood and fire, Albertans have shown their strength of character time and time again. I’m already hearing from Albertans from every corner of the province who are eager to strap on their tool belts and help rebuild the homes and lives of Fort McMurray families. As we embark on the rebuilding process, I have complete confidence we will come back even better than before.

In the face of a crisis, we are at our best. The coming days, weeks and months are certain to be difficult — but I have faith that we will get through this tragedy together.

Fire is a powerful force of nature; it may have taken our homes — but it can never take away our spirit. Because of the resiliency of our community, and with all of Alberta behind us, we will come back stronger than ever.

Brian Jean is MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin and Leader of the Wildrose Official Opposition.

Brian Jean in Grande Prairie meeting with evacuees