As fire continues to burn around Fort McMurray, people in Saskatchewan are doing whatever they can to help.
On Saturday, West Winds Aviation in Saskatoon and Harold’s Family Foods in Prince Albert teamed up to fill a plane with groceries and fly it to a community affected by the fires in northern Alberta.
Fort Chipewyan saw an influx of people after the fire in Fort McMurray chased 80,000 people from their homes; it wasn’t long before the community started running dangerously low on food.
Ray McKenzie was moved to help when his former house in Fort McMurray burned down.
“They lost everything and most of them lived in that area of Clearwater Trailer Court and Beacon Hill. That’s all burned down, so there’s nothing left,” he said.
Originally from Fort Chipewyan and now living in Prince Albert, McKenzie spearheaded the charity flight idea and within three days had a plane and 4,000 pounds of groceries to fill it with.
Pilot Fermin Dion received a hero’s welcome as he landed Saturday evening with crates of milk, eggs, bread, fresh fruit, vegetables and water in tow.
“It was really great. It was one handshake after another and they were really appreciative,” Dion told the Gormley Show Monday.
Dion got an aerial view of the massive fire; the plane came within 30-miles of Fort McMurray, which is normally visible on a clear day, he said.
Navigating through the smoky conditions, Dione described the haze as a “blanket” covering the landscape.
“It got hazy (at Buffalo Narrows) and then after that you couldn’t see any ground. Once I got to Fort Chipewyan all I saw was the airport. I couldn’t see the community.”
West Wind Aviation handles a lot of flights for oil field workers in northern Alberta. Dion said it was a nice feeling to give back to the people who have supported their business.