Edmonton, AB (October 31, 2016): Dr. David Swann today made this statement at a government ceremony honouring the heroes of the Wood Buffalo wildfire.
“Experts will tell you that when confronted with a beast, you’re supposed to run away. Such experts obviously don’t live in Alberta.
Today, it is my profound pleasure to recognize those who stood toe to toe and fought tooth and nail with the worst beast Alberta has ever seen.
Some here fought with water and fire-axe, some fought by supporting those in harm’s way, and some fought by providing tens of thousands with desperately needed food, clothing and shelter. All are heroes. As are their families who supported them, often without knowing whether their loved one was safe.
There are many dramatic images of the Fort Mac fire but for me it is the images of the fraught evacuation, lit by an eerie orange glow that will live forever in my mind. With the fire burning right to the sides of the road, an entire city was hurriedly evacuated and moved south along a single, slender ribbon of asphalt. I still marvel at this accomplishment. Those here and the citizens of Fort McMurray have my undying respect for this marvelous feat.
I would like to take a moment and remember Emily Ryan and Aaron Hodgsen who were killed in a car accident during the evacuation. For their families and friends, no amount of rebuilding will be able to make their home the place it once was. Such tragic loss provides us a stark reminder of how fortunate so many others were.
Though the fire is out, the work of heroes does not stop. Raising Fort McMurray from the ashes will be a job requiring different skills but no less strength, dedication and determination.
I want Ft. McMurray to know that Alberta is here for you. The people of our province have always responded in times of need – it is, perhaps, our defining trait. Throughout our history, we have supported each other after drought, flood and fire – this time will be no exception.
The beast destroyed many homes and neighbourhoods but the heroic efforts of those here today shielded much of Ft. McMurray from the flames. You have given us a foundation on which to rebuild.
Words are not nearly enough. Your bravery and sacrifice helped nearly 100,000 Albertans flee a monster, find them shelter and, against all odds, give them something to go home to.
Thank you, Alberta is in debt to you and your families.”