Fort McMurray Fires Update

On May 3, 2016 a wildfire engulfed Fort McMurray forcing the mass evacuation of more than 88,000 people. The fire destroyed 2,400 homes. Fort McMurray is Canada's largest natural disaster. Canadians watched in horror. Fort McMurray was in our thoughts, prayers and top of mind in charitable giving. Canadians donated $323 million - the largest ever response to a Canadian disaster.

Now the fire is out, the people have returned to Fort McMurray, and the overwhelming job of rebuilding begins. While life goes on, it's important to remember Fort McMurray and track that donations are spent quickly and effectively. Evaluating and monitoring are critical in intelligent giving.

Canadian Red Cross and other charities that responded will post donor reports in the months and years ahead. Charity Intelligence will analyse and evaluate these reports so donors can be informed. In addition, Charity Intelligence will keep a close eye on Fort McMurray's local charities to ensure they get the money to recover and play their critical role in Fort McMurray's rebuilding.

"Great to see @CharityIntel keeping @redcross accountable for #FortMac fires donations."@markyeg July 12, 2016


Charity Intelligence reports on Fort McMurray:

Not So Fast: Fort McMurray 1 Year Update Canadian Red Cross announced 1-year results on its Fort McMurray's disaster response. It reports 75% of total funds received are spent and committed. This would be Canadian Red Cross's fastest response. Except the new wording "spent and committed" conflates two important categories. Canadian donors deserve clear reporting. Looking into the financial numbers and deferred accounting rules, it looks like 61% of total funds are actually spent

For the 5 1/3 months ending April 2017, CRC reports:

  • $26 million financial lifeline to Fort McMurray small businesses. This has been superbly executed with the entire $30 million commitment completed in 10 months.  
  • $18 million for individuals and families. Canadian Red Cross does not disclose information about its programs over this period; its timeline is blank on activities after November 3. New numbers released raise concerns as calls for aid rose by over 40,000 (37%) and families receiving housing support rose by 2,900 (32%).  This could show a spike in demand for help, or simply be old numbers updated with new information. 
  • $17 million granted/committed to local charities and community organizations is going slower than hoped. Fuse Social's independent surveys show many Fort McMurray's small charities remain in financial need after the fire. 

Disaster response is one of the trickiest areas for intelligent giving. When the disaster happens, there is little information. One gives solely on promises. Now is when donors need to do their homework to evaluate when the money was spent and how it is helping Fort McMurray. Now is the toughest time of Fort McMurray's recovery. For the 1 million Canadians who donated, please take the time to read Charity Intelligence's report and our annotated version of Canadian Red Cross's one-year donor update.

Fort McMurray 6 Month Update – In the most recent three months, Canadian Red Cross received an additional $20 million in donations and spent $21 million. Spending was primarily on Red Cross programs ($16 million). Canadian Red Cross is doing one-to-one needs assessments. So far it has completed 13,310 client assessments, providing 9,000 families with money for temporary housing, rent, mortgage and utility payments. Canadian Red Cross has spent an estimated $187 million - 59% of total funds available - with $130 million remaining for Fort McMurray's relief and rebuilding. All of these funds have been committed, but commitments may change with new needs emerging - November 3, 2016

Fort McMurray 3 Month Update – Canadian Red Cross announced new spending commitments of $92 million. New commitments include $62 million for more Canadian Red Cross programs and $26 million to Fort McMurray's small and mid-sized businesses. This allocates the full $299 million in donations and matching government funds. Now the challenge is to move from commitments to execution. After fast disaster response in May, spending slowed. To date, $165 million has been spent - 55% of total funds available. Fort McMurray’s local charities haven’t seen much of the $50 million promised in June. We hope this changes, quickly - September 29, 2016

Fort McMurray 2 Month Update  The disaster phase is over. Fort McMurray now transitions to the relief and rebuilding phase. To date, 45% of donations and grants spent, Canadian Red Cross has an estimated $141 million to spend. This report gives donors a review of the disaster response with comparisons to other Canadian disasters Alberta Floods, Lac Megantic and Slave Lake, and brief updates on a few of Fort McMurray’s local charities – July 7, 2016

Fort McMurray Local Charities get $50 million commitment from Canadian Red Cross -  June 3, 2016

Transition from Disaster to Recovery – May 30, 2016

Fort McMurray Fires: Where to Give – May 5, 2016


To receive Charity Intelligence’s updates on Fort McMurray, join Charity Intelligence’s Facebook, Twitter @CharityIntel, sign up for Charity Intelligence emails, or check back here for updates.

Future reports expected:

Canadian Red Cross audited financial statements, year-end results for year ending March 31, 2017 - expected September 2017

2 year report – expected May 2018

3 year Final report – expected May 2019



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The information in this report was prepared by Charity Intelligence Canada and its independent analysts from publicly-available information. Charity Intelligence and its analysts have made endeavours to ensure that the data in this report is accurate and complete but accepts no liability.

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Charity Intelligence researches Canadian charities for donors to be informed and give intelligently. Our website posts free reports on more than 800 Canadian charities, as well as in-depth primers on philanthropic sectors like Canada’s environment, cancer, and homelessness. Today over 500,000 Canadians use our website as a go-to source for information on Canadian charities reading over 1.6 million charity reports. Through rigorous and independent research, Charity Intelligence aims to assist Canada’s dynamic charitable sector in being more transparent, accountable and focused on results.


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