Airlines Welcome Four-Legged Family Members As Cabin Passengers As Thousands Flee From Wildfires (TWEETS)

My province is on fire. More than a week ago, wildfires near the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta (in north-west Canada) invaded the town. The fires destroyed everything– houses, power-lines, and town infrastructure. The entire town of more than 80,000 people was evaucated. The forest fire is still not contained.

Many evacuees drove out of town, clogging the highways that were not built for this type of mass exodus.

People drove until they ran out of gas, then they left their vehicles on the side of the road, presumably hitching rides with those with fuller thanks. It looked like the opening scene from a post-apocalyptic thriller.

Almost immediately, Albertans started filling jerry cans with gasoline and driving toward Fort Mac to help out. The hashtag #AlbertaStrong started trending. Several nearby oil companies’ camps welcomed evacuees, and began flying them out of town to the two largest Alberta cities: Edmonton, and my city, Calgary.

One of the most heart-warming aspects of the evacuees’ trip out of town was the focus on pet safety and well-being.

Folks starting driving back into Fort McMurray to rescue pets and farm animals that had been left behind. (We’re tough, in Alberta. And kind of bad*ss.) Facebook pages started springing up to connect lost pets with their families. Airlines transporting evacuees allowed animals to fly in the coach, rather than in the cargo hold.

I volunteered with my two daughters at the airport for one of the oil companies flying evacuees out, to drive folks to their new Calgary homes. There were dog treats and a water bowl set up. I was told that before we had arrived, someone had flown with their lizard.

WestJet and Canadian North airlines changed their policies in the emergency. Both airlines adapted to support the human and animal evacuees, and to treat them with dignity and care.

As of writing, there are over 88,000 human Fort McMurray residents staying elsewhere, plus many more non-human evacuees.

The provincial and federal governments have pledged to help rebuild. The current estimate for the cost of rebuilding the town is around $9 billion CAD. If you want to donate to the relief effort, you can donate to the Red Cross here. All Red Cross donations will be matched by the Canadian government.

H/t The Dodo.