May 11, 2016
During the first week of May, our Orthodox Bright Week, massive wildfires broke out in the area near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.
As of Wednesday May 11, two separate fires had combined, spreading over an area of 229,000 hectares (about 560,000 acres), although officials say the fire is losing its intensity. 90,000 people have been forcefully evacuated from Fort McMurray and the surrounding areas. Many have lost their homes, as 1,600 structures—ten percent of those in the city, have been destroyed.
Hundreds of firefighters, policemen, and emergency workers have been sacrificing their time and safety to battle the fires and tend to those affected.
On Monday, May 9, Archbishop Irénée (OCA Archdiocese of Canada) wrote:
The Archdiocese of Canada of the Orthodox Church in America offers its sincere regrets to all those who have lost their homes, their livelihood and their businesses because of the devastation caused by the forest fires raging in Northern Alberta. We care about all those who have been evacuated. We ask that, from this Sunday until the end of the disaster, special prayers for rain be added to the litanies offered in our churches. All are encouraged to make donations to the Red Cross to help those who lack the basic necessities.
From all corners, our entire Canadian society has responded positively to the call, and so we also ask our parishes and our clergy to do their utmost to take part in efforts to help in particular the people of Northern Alberta and the surrounding areas.
The Episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada released a similar message:
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada offers its prayers for the comfort and well-being of the Fort McMurray and area residents. We also pray for the protection and safety of the firefighters, emergency workers and police fighting the fire and organizing the evacuation. We thank the All-Merciful God for the wisdom, leadership and dedication of our politicians and community leaders engaged in protecting the lives of the victims and in charge of the future recovery of the affected communities. We encourage Canadians to open their hearts and generously assist those who are affected by the Fort McMurray fire. This fire and its destructive effects show us that we can only rely on our Lord God to protect us. The UOCC encourages its faithful to make donations to relief efforts, particularly the Red Cross and aid initiatives to assist the evacuees. In this way, we may demonstrate our Christian virtues to those in distress.
O loving and merciful God, our help in time of need, You are our rock and refuge, our comfort and hope. Deliver us from the trouble that now besets us. Blessed is Your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Donations to the Canadian Red Cross, which has already raised $60 million, can be made here.