Manpreet Singh wraps a box full of goods destined for Fort McMurray at a Fruiticana warehouse in Surrey on May 9. Three tractor-trailers of food

Fighting fire with food

Sikh community rallies to assist victims of Fort McMurray wildfires.

It took less than three days for the region’s Sikh community to fill three tractor-trailer units with relief supplies for victims of the wildfires surrounding Fort McMurray, Alta.

On Monday afternoon, following a brief Sikh prayer service, three trucks filled with food, baby formula, diapers and other essentials left the main Fruiticana headquarters in Surrey, destined for Edmonton Emergency Relief Services, located near the airport in the Alberta capital.

Even at the last minute, a silver Nissan Altima stuffed with donations arrived to fill the last truck.

“The whole community has come together in a joint effort,” said Dr. Bargat Bhurji, a Surrey pediatrician who, with Akal Academy volunteer Avtar Gill, organized a massive food drive May 6-8 at nine Sikh temples and schools in Surrey, as well as several other locations in the region.

Fort McMurray’s entire population of 80,000 was evacuated last week during Alberta’s worst fire season in memory.

On Monday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said about 2,400 structures in Fort McMurray were destroyed – roughtly 10 per cent of the city.

CBC reported Monday that the fire, fought by about 700 firefighters, covered about 204,000 hectares, and was growing at a slower pace than the previous week.

Jolly and Kiran Saluja watched the trucks leave Surrey after having volunteered on both Sunday and Monday.

The two said they regularly volunteer with Akal Academy.

“(But) this (food drive) is something new,” said Kiran. “Something different.”

Bhurji thanked Fruiticana owner Tony Singh, who he phoned on Friday evening asking for space to load the trucks.

No problem, he was told.

“It’s my duty to give back to the community,” said Singh. “Canada has given a lot to me… I’ve been here for 40 years.”

The project continues with another collection drive on Saturday, May 14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Tamanawis Secondary, 12600 66 Ave.

“People can drop off any non-perishable food items, clothing, basic necessities of daily life,” said Gill, who is coordinating with Alberta relief officials to find out about the items most needed.

For more information, contact Akal Academy at 604-729-2000 or email


Other ways to lend support:

Aid agencies, companies and Canadians across the country are pledging to assist Albertans who have been displaced or lost their homes due to the fire in Fort McMurray.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will match individual contributions to the Canadian Red Cross ( to assist those affected by the massive blaze.

People in B.C. wanting to set up a personal crowdfunding campaign can do so through the BlackPress4Good fundraising site.

BlackPress4Good will waive the regular fees (excluding credit card fees) for any personal crowdfunding campaign launched in support of friends or family members affected by the Fort McMurray fires. See for more information.

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