The devastating impact of the forest fires raging in the Wood Buffalo region is far beyond anything we have witnessed, the effects will be felt for years to come. The tragic loss of homes and livelihoods is just too difficult to fathom or appreciate at this time.
As an airline obsessed with safety and the well being of its employees, we are thankful that there has been no loss of life and no serious injuries.
Our heartfelt thanks goes out to emergency response officials on the ground in Fort McMurray helping those citizens to safety. I’m reminded of the adage we hear often of the men and women who serve and protect us all – that they are the ones running towards the danger. We thank them for their courage and bravery.
We operated flights to Fort McMurray through last night and an additional three flights today, arriving in Fort McMurray with no guests but full of relief supplies and leaving with every available seat full.
There are numerous oil sands companies that operate out of the Fort McMurray area with private airstrips capable of handling commercial jet aircraft. We have operated eight flights out of Firebag (YFI) to evacuate workers and residents and we have been asked for further flights to other airfields to rescue workers still in the area. We have earmarked eight aircraft in the fleet that are standing by to operate further flights as soon as we get the call.
We are working closely with emergency response organizations to provide the support they require from WestJet as they respond to the relief efforts. At this time they require cash and flights. As such, we are directing all other requests for support to the Red Cross at this time. WestJet has donated $25,000 to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Fires Appeal and we are encouraging our WestJetters to also contribute.
This is a fluid and still very dangerous situation and we are taking our cues from government officials and aid organizations. There will come a time to rebuild, hopefully very soon and we look forward to playing a part in helping the men and women of Fort McMurray as they restore their communities.