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The flames have consumed houses, businesses and everything else standing in the path of the raging wildfire. Over 88,000 people have fled Fort McMurray, the quiet oil town in Alberta that’s become international news as the ash of 18,500 scorched acres continues to blanket it.
The videos emerging from the fire look like they could have been scenes from a disaster movie.
“A movie that I don’t really want to watch,” said Scottie Upshall of the St. Louis Blues. “I saw the freeway I usually used to drive in from the airport. Both sides of the road had 100-foot flames. I saw a couple of restaurants I used to go to, and they’re just … gone.”
Upshall grew up in Fort McMurray, playing with the city’s AJHL team the Oil Barons as a 16-year-old and leading them to a Royal Bank Cup championship.
He’s attempting to win a different kind of Cup with the Blues in the 2016 NHL playoffs. But his mind is back home.
“We’re in a real great spot here in the playoffs. But when lives are at stake, when a community has its backs against a wall, fighting for survival, it’s tough,” he said on Wednesday.
“Most of my family is trying not to overplay it at all, but there was really nothing to overplay when something like that happens. I’m just worried about the safety of friends and family.”
Upshall said his family is safe, and hoped the same was true for everyone else in Fort McMurray. But he knows for everyone, the city will never be the same.
“For me, growing up there doesn’t seem to long ago. The places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be tough to take in,” he said. “It’s hard to explain. Unique situation. And very devastating.”
The Blues have been supportive of Upshall, as “everyone last night sent their thoughts and their prayers” to him when the news broke, he said.
Furthering that support: The Blues announced that proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction at Game 4 against the Dallas Stars will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.
Fans can also bid on Blues autographed memorabilia at the game or at home to benefit the Fort McMurray community. Items include game-used merchandise, playoff goal pucks and 3D art painted by Steven Walden. To bid, visit blues.myab.co on your computer or tablet, or text “blues” to 52182.
The Edmonton Oilers also donated $100,000 to Red Cross Canada.
All in the spirit of helping those in need.
“I know there’s a lot of help they’re getting. There’s a lot of sacrifices being made for the people of Fort McMurray,” said Upshall.
“The good thing is that the city will get through it.”
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