“THE BEAST” WAS where it all started. On May 1, 2016, the historic Fort McMurray wildfire began burning in Alberta, eventually destroying nearly 1.5 million acres of boreal forest, homes, and industrial work camps. Watching in horror as the blaze grew to unheard-of proportions, earning its ferocious moniker, a small group of Canadian military veterans saw an opportunity to do their part on a grand scale.
By May 26, 2016, the group had set up Team Rubicon Canada, a disaster response organization that now boasts a membership of 2,000-plus “Canadian veterans, first responders, and kick-ass civilians.” It then deployed a volunteer team for its first mission, Operation Pay Dirt, to the Fort McMurray frontlines.
“Team Rubicon serves communities by mobilizing veterans to continue their service, leveraging their skills and experience to help people prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises,” says Ashley Pardy-Serre, director of development for Team Rubicon Canada. Known as Greyshirts, for their uniform, volunteers from across the country donate their time and specialized skills, domestically and overseas, in an effort to create what she calls “the most trusted, agile, and adaptive disaster response organization in Canada.”
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