NEWS
05/06/2016 12:40 EDT | Updated 05/07/2017 01:12 EDT

Canadians donate $30 million so far to Red Cross wildfire relief effort

TORONTO — In what the president of the Canadian Red Cross called an unprecedented "Canadian moment," donations to help the victims of the huge wildfire around Fort McMurray, Alta., hit $30 million by early Friday.

"Canadians are collectively coming together to show their care and compassion," Conrad Sauve said.

"We have over 100,000 Canadians that have come to us with texts to donate. We’re getting offers from every part of the country, including corporate Canada."

About 14,000 families in need from the Fort McMurray area have registered with the Red Cross and that number is expected to grow.

The federal government has promised to match all donations to the Red Cross for Fort McMurray relief.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday there won't be a cap on Ottawa's contribution, but there will be a time limit.

"Our commitment will apply to individual charitable donations made within Canada, it will be backdated to May 3, 2016 and it will continue until May 31, 2016," he said in a statement.

The money is used to mobilize and provide support Red Cross volunteers who are helping evacuees. The cash is also used to provide basic goods to people fleeing the fire.

“We are distributing cots, blankets and other basic necessity items like hygiene kits for people who have been evacuated, sometimes only with what they were able to carry in their hands to their car,” said Jean-Pierre Taschereau, Red Cross director of emergency operations.

It’s not yet clear how much money will be needed because the relief effort is long-term.

The Red Cross was involved for four years after the 2011 fire that swept through Slave Lake, Alta., and destroyed 400 buildings. The agency provides help on top of what insurance companies and government programs offer.

"We’ll be able to assist people beyond the emergency phase, into the rebuilding and going back into their communities," Taschereau said.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called the Fort McMurray blaze "an absolute beast of a fire" that is one of the worst ever seen.

"The situation is still evolving. It’s still very dangerous."