Kaylyn Lowe (left)

Maple Ridge residents helping fire victims

Residents, businesses raising money for Fort McMurray.

Hearts and hands from the rainforest in Maple Ridge are reaching out to the northern forest wildfire victims in Fort McMurray, Alta.

From iced tea stands to business folks to shoppers picking up a case of beer, people want to send help to the 90,000 people who fled for their lives from last week’s wildfires.

“Where they’re going to need a lot of help is in the long run,” said Peter Tam, with the Haney Rotary Club.

That group along with the Meadow Ridge Rotary Club are trying to get members to open their wallets to Rotary’s Fort McMurray fire relief fund. The money will go up to the Rotary in Fort McMurray, where it will be used to help rebuild.

“We’re trying to collect as much as we can. We just don’t know what people need,” Tam said.

He added that there’s no rush because he knows the recovering and reconstruction process will take months, even years.

“We just want to plan out things properly, in the right way. I really want to involve the community.”

He’s extending the invitation to anyone else who wants to get involved.

“I’m looking for suggestions.”

Cash is preferred as it allows organizers to buy what they need rather than sort through tonnes of donated goods.

“I really want to involve the community, because I know a lot of generous people in Maple Ridge are looking for some way of helping,” Tam said.

“In the long run, the best we can do is work with the people who are on the ground there.”

Brad Carr and his family also want to help. Isabella and Jaxon Fraser and Makenna and Brenyn Vanlaerhoven set up an iced tea stand outside Save On Foods on 240th Street on the weekend and raised $1,480 – “and still counting,” Carr said.

Residents near Maple Ridge secondary are also helping out as another iced tea stand on 120th Street has so far raised $127.

People shopping at B.C. Liquor Stores are chipping in, as well. In the last five days, shoppers donated $240,000 to contribute to the Red Cross.

Every dollar donated to the Canadian Red Cross for Fort McMurray fire relief will be matched by the federal government.


New fire regulations

The hot weather is already here, so it’s time to realize that the winter monsoons have gone and the dry time is here, which raises the threat of fires.

“The message out there, in our parks, in our trails, in our shopping malls, if you’re a smoker think twice before you throw that cigarette butt into the shrubbery or on to the ground. If it doesn’t get put out, the potential there is huge,” said Pitt Meadows assistant fire chief Brad Perrie.

And if a friendly warning from the fire department doesn’t get your attention, new fines announced April 1 by B.C. Wildfire Service may.

Any driver who gets caught tossing a burning cigarette butt out a car window could get slapped with a $575 fine.

The same penalty applies to anyone who doesn’t report a fire or fails to extinguish their campfire. If you use fire contrary to regulations, get ready for a $1,150 fine.

The new penalties are three times what they used to be.

And they’ll be needed this year, predicted to be another dry one, said Perrie.

As the land dries out, Perrie adds that people who live in areas facing the forest or wild areas should trim back hedges and shrubs away from their houses, to reduce the chance of their house catching on fire.

An SFU instructor last week said that the Alberta government hasn’t done enough to reduce the risk to cities caused by wildfires, such as the one that engulfed Fort McMurray last week.


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