Capitals left wing Jason Chimera is fiercely proud of his Canadian heritage and his hometown of Edmonton, which has become a haven for evacuees displaced by the wildfires that have ravaged more than 600 square miles of Alberta’s oil region in the past week.
“My wife’s mother is working overtime helping people out, supplying people with what they need at (Rexall Place),” Chimera said.
“Canada is pretty tight-knit and Alberta’s even tighter. I take a lot of pride being from Alberta and Edmonton is doing a pretty good job of helping evacuees and taking them in. I know Rexall Place has 3,000 or 4,000 people there.”
The fire, which began in oil-rich Fort McMurray, is expected to be the most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history. The region produces about a quarter of Canada’s oil and workers from major oil companies have been evacuated to nearby cities like Edmonton, which is a four-hour drive south of the wildfires.
“When you look at the pictures of the devastation and how it affects all those people out there, hockey seems meaningless in the grand scheme of things,” Chimera said.
“The whole oil production has kind of slowed down to a halt up there because so many people have been evacuated. I don’t know anyone personally that’s been affected but I’ve heard stories of neighbors and friends taking people in.”
The Edmonton Oilers, Calagary Flames and Winnipeg Jets each have donated $100,000 to relief efforts and the St. Louis Blues raised more than $25,000 from a 50/50 raffle last week during Game 4 of their playoff series against the Dallas Stars. (Blues forward Scottie Upshall was born in Fort McMurray and head coach Ken Hitchcock is from Edmonton).
The fires have damaged roughly 20 percent of the homes in Fort McMurray, but no deaths or injuries have been reported, although two people died in traffic accidents during the mass evacuation.
“You can replace things and houses can be rebuilt, and neighborhoods can be rebuilt, which is a good thing,” Chimera said. “A lot of people will help each other out in that aspect, but you want to keep people safe and keep them from harm and the firefighters have done a good job of that.”