Brian Jean & Tany Yao from the Wildrose Party
Thursday May 5th was a busy day. After meeting Brian Jean the opposition leader from the Wildrose Party and Tany Yao - the MLA for Wood Buffalo, who came to thank me personally for what I was doing with the quick line and all of the other volunteers who were helping, it was back to work making sandwiches.

Fire truck after fire truck came in and they would load up with supplies and off they went.

The thank you's and hugs for coffee and food were profuse.

There were only 6 core people on the ground at this point helping the first responders: I met Jody Hudek who works for the Suncor Community Centre and Matt Coffin, a resident of Fort Mac whose home was still standing but had no power. I also met a homeless man named Dennis.

Then there was Jeremy Hall, Will Skinner and myself - all from Grande Prairie, all part of the Canadian Motorcycle Community.

The three from Fort Mac, Jody, Matt and Dennis were doing what they could to clean up from the evacuees and sort out what was fit for human consumption and what wasn't.  Some of the fire fighters had scavenged out of the centre but ended up getting sick so we didn't want that happening again.

Jody & Matt also acted as my runners while Lynda grabbed a few hours of shut eye. Her truck was running like crap and Jeremy Hall tried to change filters for her to no avail.  She headed out late on Thursday afternoon after I had a nap and she spent all day Friday at Grande Prairie Chrysler where they changed filters and did an oil change as well as replaced a headlight for her, all free of charge because of her efforts to help the first responders.

She headed back into Fort Mac late on Friday night arriving Saturday morning with another load of much needed supplies, but her truck was sicker than ever.  She headed straight back to Grande Prairie where it was diagnosed that the Bully Dog in her truck had blown up. The Bully Dog is a computer. GP Chrysler ate some of the bill as the Bully Dog was not covered under extended warranty, but it still cost her over $1,500 out of pocket - a bill she could ill afford to pay. I have put in a plea to GP Chrysler and Chrysler Canada to help her out. I sure hope they do as I could not have done what I did if she hadn't run her truck with supplies.

My very first selfie - I was fighting with the camera
to get in all of the boys from the Redwater Fire Dept.
(Redwater is as close to having a hometown as I come.)

With Lynda gone, Thursday and Friday was basically just me on sandwich detail, and I can't count the number of sandwiches I had made by late Friday.

I'd get a call from someone going out to feed guys and gals on the fire line - Betty, I need 40 sandwiches for a crew on Tower Road that hasn't eaten in 24 hours, Betty, I need 150 sandwiches to feed three different crews I am going out to and on and on the day into the night went...Before I knew it, it was Friday morning about 2 am.  A large number of RCMP officers came to my station for coffee and snacks, everyone of them grateful to have this 24 hour station which was lovingly dubbed the Mac's store.

You see by this time we were getting all sorts of supplies.

Mark Lafountaine and his wife who own Screaming' Eagle Oilfield Sales in Whitecourt gathered tons of Beef Jerky, Gatorade, water, foot care products, Visine, headache medications etc., and my friend Dave Perra from Perra Leather Works in St. Albert had driven those supplies in along with some Tobacco products I had sent him the money to purchase. He arrived around 11 pm Thursday night and turned around to head straight back as he had to work Friday morning. His boss would not let him stay to help unless of course Dave wanted to loose his job.

Earlier on Thursday morning a fire crew had asked me if I could by any chance get some chewing tobacco and another crew asked about cigarettes, some about gum.  All of these early first responders had literally dropped everything, grabbed their bunker gear and headed off to Fort Mac - they had very little with them save the clothes on their backs.

So Friday morning when the one crew came in around 2:30 am (about 20 hours after their asking for tobacco and gum, the gent who had asked about chewing tobacco (his crew begging me to do what I could do cause someone was grumpy) sheepishly poked his head around the corner of his fire rig and said "So????"

I whipped out the tobacco and said "So???" His whole crew was hanging out of the windows cheering "YEAH" and he yelled out "I need to marry you!"

We all had a great chuckle and I got some mighty big hugs. It was at this point that I became dubbed "Klinger" (from MASH) - I became their procurement and moral officer!

Throughout the early morning of Friday May 6th, I had crew after crew coming to ask me about a variety of things. Betty, any chance you can get us some toothpaste? How about some moleskin, Gold Bond? How about some batteries, how about....

Little things that they needed and so our shopping list grew.  Baby Powder, under wear, tee shirts, deodorant, allergy medications, sun screen, lip balm, shaving cream, razors....

Some of these people's feet were in such tough shape they could hardly walk and yet they never stopped going back in when called upon.

I coordinated as many of the supplies as I could with my drivers, Jeremy had also been coordinating supplies and Jody did her best along with Matt and Dennis's help to dig through and re-stack all of the evacuee donations and we found some of the stuff the guys and gals needed in those supplies, things like blankets and clothing. Cases of cookies and other non perishables like cereal were found and a microwave was located to make bowls of soup. One microwave to 500 or so people.  It was rough, but we did it.

The Quick line also dubbed the 24 Hour mac's Store on
Thursday morning at about 4 am.

Thursday evening - about 9 pm
2 AM Thursday night
Catching a few minutes - you couldn't really call it sleep

Sleeping accommodations were sparse, many of the folks up there were sleeping in their trucks, rigs, on yoga mats on the ground, couches inside the Suncor Community Centre or simply on sidewalks.

There were few cots left over from the evacuees and I was given one so I could sleep by my station as Lynda was gone with the trailer to fill it up again.  When I did get to sleep it was so cold that I was shivering uncontrollably and an angel, whose name I later learned was Darrel Comeau, also from Grande Prairie, found some blankets and covered me up well - I got 2 wonderful hours of hard sleep after that.

Darrel Comeau took this photo of
me trying to get a bit of sleep 
Friday morning about 7 am

Once we could get into the coolers in the upstairs kitchen, we had access to hot dogs and hamburgers.

There were canned foods but nowhere to cook as the centre had no gas.

Jeremy and Will found a BBQ and some propane and were manning the BBQ from that point on. Dennis, a homeless man worked his arse off and did all of the running for Jeremy and Will.

Baked beans and hot dogs for breakfast, no one minded at all.  Hot food was not something many of them had had since late Monday.

Mid-day on Friday May 6th, Jeremy who has 10 years of oilfield fire fighting experience and a ton of equipment operation experience was asked to man a water truck and later a hoe.

Will in the back manning the BBQ
He was running all over the place helping where he was needed, which left Will running the BBQ. Jody and Matt were perking coffee upstairs and running down carafes and supplies as fast as they could. Dennis was helping Will as much as he could.

Everything that we could lay our mitts to in that centre was put to good use, feeding and hydrating everyone we could.

Now there is something about Will Skinner I want to share with you before I sign off today.

Not all that long ago, last riding season, Will had been hit head on by a texting driver while riding his motorcycle. He had two broken legs, two broken arms and a broken neck.  Yet all through our time together up in Fort Mac, and while I was gone to Two Hills to deliver their trophy and road signs, this man stood in the heat, in the ash, on the pavement, flipping burgers, carving roasts into steaks, boiling potatoes and providing hot meals to as many as that little BBQ and the two warming grills they scrounged could handle.

Everyone was patient and grateful.
AND Will slept in Jeremy's truck too!

This man is more crippled up than I am and yet he did not stop, no matter the pain he was in.

Matt Coffin and I - he was a gem!
The donations kept coming in, either in cash for us to buy what we couldn't get donated or actual supplies that we had put out pleas for.

I need you to understand something - this was very early into the disaster. The city was pretty much empty of people, there were no people in town to support these fire fighters and Fire command had some water and fruit, but nothing else.  If guys couldn't come in from the fire line because they were without fuel, it meant they couldn't get in to grab any of the meagre supplies that were available to them.

When they did finally get fuel thanks to Jessy Kappel, (the volunteer fire fighter from Grovedale) and all of her logistics support, they were some grateful for that first coffee, sandwich etc. that they were able to drive in to get.

Hugs were plentiful, they were about the only thing that were!

If your are blessed enough to be riding today, please remember to ride like everyone around you is blind and can't see you.

Belt Drive Betty
Editor & Rider

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