June 14, 2016 - 3:20 PM
EDMONTON - Alberta is organizing a centralized donation program for residents of fire-ravaged Fort McMurray and says it will avoid mistakes from the Slave Lake fire when new clothes ended up in the garbage dump.
Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said Tuesday that if Fort McMurray receives more donations than needed, items will be redirected to other charities.
"We certainly would work with other charities to do that, recognizing that everyone would like to see those in the hands of people who need them," she said.
"If for some reason Fort McMurray residents do not need those, we'll make sure someone who does gets them."
Residents of Fort McMurray were allowed to return earlier this month, four weeks after a wildfire cut the city in two and forced more than 80,000 residents to flee.
The fire destroyed one-tenth of the city, including homes, businesses and schools.
A similar fire destroyed one-third of Slave Lake in 2011. In the months that followed, some donations, including new clothes for children, were found in the landfill after they went unclaimed.
Larivee said the province will work with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency to co-ordinate the collection and distribution of donations as the focus shifts to long-term aid.
"Our hard work is not over," she said.
"Some people lost their homes. Others are living in another community (and) are not able to return home, and they still need our help."
The province is still looking for a range of donations, including gently used furniture. Priority items include canned meat, peanut butter, baby food and formula, new baby bottles, new pillows, new towels, basic first-aid kits, children's shoes and sanitary or multi-surface wipes.
The Adventist agency is a non-governmental organization that assisted in disaster relief following hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in the United States.
On another front, Labour Minister Christina Gray reminded workers and employers to be vigilant for hazards such as ash and burned debris as they rebuild Fort McMurray.
She noted that if a building was erected before 2000, workers must assume asbestos is present unless a hazardous materials check proves otherwise. Employers can't dismiss or discipline a worker for raising a safety concern or for refusing dangerous work.
Also Tuesday, the RCMP said they are investigating to determine if a criminal offence may have been behind the cause of the fire.
Mounties have been working with provincial wildfire investigators, who believe the blaze is likely to have been caused by people.
There were no reports of lightning in the region when the fire began May 1.
An air-quality advisory, fire ban and prohibition on ATVs have all be lifted for the region.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016