Joining forces to help Fort McMurray

Corporate Responsibility

Joining forces to help Fort McMurray

Canadian Natural employees played a key role in the safe evacuation of Fort McMurray during the wildfires in May 2016. Our Horizon operation located just north of Fort McMurray welcomed all, from families to children (and even pets), regardless of their affiliation to the company, providing safe accommodations, meals and medical attention.

“We received over 3,500 people, and also flew 2,700 evacuees, to either Edmonton or Calgary with the assistance of our Horizon Aerodrome staff and our carrier Canadian North. We did everything we could to look after all the people who were coming to our site.” — Chad Beaton, Manager of Facilities and Services at Horizon.

Because our operations were not at risk from fire or smoke, the Emergency Operations Centre concentrated primarily on logistics and assisting the influx of evacuees and firefighting support.

Left: Horizon employee Michael Byrne and his family were on the first flight flown out from Horizon site. Their daughter, Bristol, was born not long after their arrival in Edmonton.

Helping our neighbours

Horizon’s staff rolled up their sleeves to help direct people where to go, load buses, assist mobility-impaired evacuees and provide rides. They also gave up their camp rooms to families, helped out moms and their children by providing extra pillows and bottles of milk, and assembled kennels for dogs and cats. Horizon camp kitchens remained open all night to feed people as they arrived on site.

We also provided support to neighbouring Indigenous communities through this challenging time. Our Horizon medical facilities remained available to Fort McKay community members when the hospital in Fort McMurray was closed. We facilitated the delivery of supplies to Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation, remained on call to support Conklin and worked to ensure Indigenous peoples at the evacuation centre in Lac La Biche received the support that they needed.

“The community of Fort McKay was able to sustain itself and continue to provide for the evacuees it housed in large part from working closely with your organizations. It was clear to us that your staff’s focus was to ensure everyone’s safety without considerations of cost.” — Fort McKay’s Chief, Jim Bouchier, in an open thank-you letter to industry.

Horizon staff fighting the fire in Fort McMurray

While all the activity to support evacuees was taking place at our camps, Horizon helped out in another crucial way, immediately providing firefighter support when the mutual aid call went out from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) to oil sands operations. Members from our Emergency Services team raced down to Fort McMurray to join the crews from the city and our industry partners to protect and save the town. During the first few days of the response effort, Canadian Natural sent two crews of five firefighters for each day and night shift, while other emergency staff remained on site, as per our safety procedures.

“To see how all the different crews came together to help Fort McMurray from the fires was very impressive.” — Bob Slade, Horizon’s Fire Chief and Superintendent of Emergency Services.

One of the Horizon crews that helped fight the wildfire in Fort McMurray. From left, Chuck MacEachern, Matthew Sidney, Philip Griffin, Dale Young and Trevor Greene.

Assistance from across Canadian Natural

With the health and safety of our employees and their families guiding our efforts, Canadian Natural staff from other Canadian and International offices quickly joined forces across our operations to help in any way they could. In addition to cash donations, Kirby South and heavy oil operations employees assisted evacuees who were fleeing south of Fort McMurray. They deployed a fuel truck to supply stranded motorists and delivered essentials including food and water. Also, a group of 40 employees from our Information Systems (IS) team lent a hand building YMM Help, a website providing essential steps for evacuees to take, including accommodation matching and important updates on financial assistance.

With the mass evacuation of almost 90,000 people, the wildfires that spread into Fort McMurray tested the resolve of these hard-working communities. In the face of such adversity, Albertans rallied together to do what they do best — help one another.