By Dean Midyette

Pioneer Publisher

The pictures are horrifying and the stories from those forced to flee are heartwrenching. Fort MacMurray is burning with no end to the flames expected in the near future. At the time this editorial was written, over 80,000 people had evacuated the city and over 1,600 structures were confirmed burned.

Residents have described the city as a war zone and apocalyptic. Firefighters are arriving from neighbouring communities and the federal government is assessing the situation with plans to direct our Armed Services men and women to assist. We can only hope that the weather turns, bringing much needed rain and cooler temperatures.

In our community, like most others across Canada, we look after our neighbours in times of need and crisis. Each year we are beneficiaries of thousands of visits from families who live and work in Fort MacMurray. They are our friends and neighbours and will need our support.

How can we help? We can start by making donations as relief efforts are announced. Please make sure that you are donating to a reputable charity or service organization.

We can make sure that we are obeying fire and fireworks bans. Its been an arid spring, earlier, drier and hotter than average. If we take the necessary precautions, we can minimize the chances of wildfires threatening our communities.

We can plan for the worst and hope for the best. Take a few minutes to drop by the Emergency Preparedness Fair at the Windermere Fire Hall this weekend. Put together a 72-hour kit and keep it handy. There was very little warning in advance of the evacuation order for Fort MacMurray residents.

Finally, when you run into a local First Responder, let them know how thankful you are for the service they provide. Many are volunteers. They train so that when terrible things occur they can provide assistance, putting themselves in harms way to keep us safe.