As wildfires burn across Canada, churches are finding ways to support their members and the broader community directly impacted by the crisis.
According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, as of June 13, there are 462 active fires across Canada – and 236 of them classified as out of control fires.
Whether it’s through phone calls or donations to community members, here’s how a few churches across Canada are handling active wildfires and the aftermath in their regions.
Westwood Hills, N.S.: St. Nicholas Anglican Church
In Nova Scotia, St. Nicholas Anglican Church and other churches in the area are collecting money for grocery cards to give to families impacted by the Tantallon wildfire.
The fire is now considered contained, but Tanya Moxley, the treasurer at St. Nicholas is organizing efforts to get grocery gift cards into the hands of impacted families.
As of June 12, four churches in the area – St. Nicholas, Parish of French Village, St Margaret of Scotland and St John the Evangelist – raised nearly $3,500. The money will be split for families’ groceries between five schools in the area impacted by the wildfire.
Moxley said she felt driven to raise this money after she heard the principal of her child’s school was using his own money to buy groceries for impacted families in their area.
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“[For] most of those people who were evacuated, the power was off in their subdivision for three, four or five days,” she said. “Even though they went home and their house was still standing, the power was off and they lost all their groceries.”
Moxley said many people in the area are still “reeling” from the fires. She said the church has an important role to help community members during this time.
“We’re called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless and all that stuff, right? So this is it. This is like where the rubber hits the road.”
Edson, Alta.: Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Parish
In Edson, Alta., a fire is raging 1.5 kilometres outside of the city limits. The wildfire has grown to over 200,000 hectares, and another wildfire near is 87,000 hectares in size, CTV reported.
Rev. Thomas Reddy Basani of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Parish said parishioners have been evacuated from their homes.
Basani said this is the second time in a little over a month that they’ve been evacuated. He said parishioners are now scattered in surrounding areas, and he’s been calling many to find out where they are and how they are doing to ensure they have accommodations.
Basani said the fire is so severe that the RCMP began knocking on doors in the town telling people to leave immediately.
“We are not able to go back. I do not know when we are going back.”
In a social media update on June 12, Edson officials said the fire remains “out of control and close to the community.” They said that residents will likely not be able to return home on Wednesday, June 14, as immediately projected. It’s likely the evacuation order will last longer.
Sacred Heart will hold its Feast of the Sacred Heart Masses on Saturday and Sunday, pending the lifting of the evacuation order. Its Feast of the Sacred Heart Dinner held on Saturday has been cancelled.
More on Broadview:
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- How to deal with the end of the world
Tofino, B.C.: St. Columba Anglican Church
On Vancouver Island, a wildfire has closed Highway 4 – the main road to Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet. Currently, there’s no indication of when the road might reopen, cutting off people from the rest of the island. Trucks bring in essential goods twice a day through a four-hour detour.
Jean Forte, the minister at St. Columba Anglican Church, said the community has been cut off for a while now, but that it is “very resilient.”
“My church can only lend support to that kind of activity,” Forte said. “The issue for so many people in that area is that we don’t have tourists, which is really important because this is our chance for the tourism industry and it’s not doing very much these days … It’s just a matter of waiting and seeing what’s going to happen.”
Charlotte Alden is one of Broadview’s summer interns and is based in Vancouver, B.C.
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