Fort McMurray fire: Syrians join others to help those in need

CNN  — 

Free cab rides. Cross-country contributions. Thousands of dollars in donations. In ways big and small, Canadians are doing what needs to be done to help those devastated by the Fort McMurray Wildfire.

Here’s how some are helping:

Returning the favor

The town of Lac-Megantic, Canada is no stranger to tragedy. Three years ago, an unmanned, runaway 73-car train slammed into the center of the town of 6,000 in the early morning of July 6. Tanker cars full of crude oil exploded and burned in the heart of the commercial district.

At least 42 people died and 40 businesses were leveled.

Now, Lac-Megantic residents are doing what they can to help, even though they’re 4,000 miles away.

“Three years ago, our population was struck down by tragedy, and all of Canada helped us. Now it’s our turn to help this community,” Luc Berthold, a politician who represents the region, told CNN partner CBC.

Residents are banding together and collecting donations for the Red Cross. “We understand what the people in Fort McMurray are going through,” Lac-Megantic Mayor Jean-Guy Cloutier told CBC. “All expressions of solidarity are a valuable comfort, and our prayers are with them.”

Every little bit helps

Kris Andreychuk, a social worker and the supervisor of community safety in Edmonton city, posted an Instagram image showing cab services offering free rides.

The mood in the city, where many Fort McMurray residents are taking up refuge, is in awe, he told CNN. The town is focusing on helping those evacuated from the wildfire. “Edmontonians have demonstrated a spirit of caring and are going above and beyond to offer help,” he told CNN on Instagram.

The city is also providing free access to city attractions and recreational centers.

How you can help

Help from those with nothing

Images of burning homes and clouds of smoke brought tears to his eyes. Naser Nader had lived through something similar in his homeland of Syria.

This time, it wasn’t besieged Damascus; it was in Fort McMurray.

Canada wildfire: By the numbers

1,600: Structures destroyed 88,000: People evacuated1,010: Square kilometers burned250: Firefighters12: Firefighting helicopters0: Reported fatalities

“I’ve lived it. I’ve been there,” he said through a translator. “I’ve seen the fires. I’ve seen the blood. I’ve experienced the losses.”

Nader is one of many Syrian refugees in Calgary, Alberta, giving what little he has to return the favor to his adopted country. Nader and other members of the Syrian Refugee Support Group are pooling money to buy relief supplies for those affected by the wildfires.

“We felt like we had to do something because we lived through that experience,” he said.

syrian refugees canada wildfire

Free flights for dogs

Canadian airline WestJet has been helping evacuate residents and deliver relief supplies. The company said it’s working closely with officials to help get people out of affected areas, using airstrips at private oil fields.

A Facebook user posted a photo of dog aboard a WestJet plane, thanking the airline.

The company has also donated $25,000 to the Red Cross.

Sports stars step up

Canadian golfer Graham DeLaet is donating $500 to the Canadian Red Cross for every birdie he makes at this week’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina. So far he’s shot two. Follow his progress here.

He also encouraged other golfers to do the same.

Local sports teams also chipped in. The NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames each donated $100,000 to relief efforts.

CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg and Amanda Jackson contributed to this report.