Fort McMurray Fire: Naheed Nenshi Welcomes Evacuees To Calgary

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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi wants Fort McMurray evacuees to know that Calgary is ready to welcome them with open arms.

He recorded a message to evacuees and Calgarians on Sunday from a reception centre at the University of Calgary.

“First, I want to say to the evacuees: welcome. Our home is your home,” Nenshi said, in a Facebook Live video from the university.

“It is our pride, it is our honour to be able to help you in this time of need.”

It has only been one week since an out-of-control wildfire forced over 80,000 Fort McMurray residents from their homes.

The fire, which spans over 1,600 square kilometres, could burn for months, officials warned over the weekend.

Nenshi encouraged Fort McMurray residents to take their minds off the crisis by visiting some of Calgary’s attractions free of charge.

The Calgary Zoo and Telus Spark Science Centre have opened their doors to evacuees, as have the city's pools and leisure centres.

“It is our pride, it is our honour to be able to help you in this time of need.”

“I want to tell you I’m a terrible host because I don’t want you to stay very long. I want you to go home,” Nenshi said.

“While you’re here, understand that you’re part of our community, part of our family and we will look after you.”

The mayor also wished a very special Happy Mother's Day to a Fort McMurray mom who gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Calgary on Saturday night.

fort mcmurray
A giant fireball is seen as a wildfire rips along Highway 63, south of Fort McMurray on Saturday. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP)

The city is prepared to house up to 2,000 people in post-secondary residences, Tom Sampson, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), told the Calgary Herald.

Sampson added that the number of people accessing Calgary emergency housing may just be a small percentage of how many Fort McMurray residents are actually in the city.

"In a classic evacuation, only about five per cent of the population actually goes to a shelter, we understand that this might be a slightly higher case, but that gives you a bit of a sample of how many people might be in Calgary,” the CEMA head told CBC News.

Displaced Fort McMurray residents are being housed at four Calgary locations: SAIT, The University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and Ambrose University.

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