Bethany Calgary Welcomes Wildfire Evacuees

On May 6, 2023, in a swift response to raging wildfires across the province, Alberta declared a state of emergency, leading to the evacuation orders and displacement of thousands. Among those affected were seniors, and many found refuge at Bethany Calgary, one of several care homes put on alert by Alberta Health Services (AHS).

On the evening of May 7, Bethany Calgary received thirteen evacuees with varying medical needs requiring immediate attention. Some arrived with only the clothes on their backs. Bethany Calgary collaborated with AHS to bring in extra care staff and mobilize care teams to ensure a smooth transition for the evacuees.

We had to assess and adapt very quickly to get them beds, personal items, and the clinical equipment they needed – from walkers and wheelchairs to hand splints,” says Jennifer Vance, Site Administrator for Bethany Calgary. “Everyone stepped up and responded immediately and with open arms.”

Mae (“Mom”) McDermott and Sharon (“Nana”) Gibbs were two of the evacuees from northern Alberta who were brought to Calgary via medivac plane. Mae laughed and said, “Imagine, I am 92, and this was my first airplane ride!” Sharon said the worst thing through the ordeal was finding out the Oilers lost during the playoffs.

Evacuee Wendy Jannison said she was so glad she was brought to Bethany Calgary, “Everyone here has been incredible; I was treated like a queen.”

As the initial evacuees returned home, a second alert emerged on August 18, 2023. This time, residents in Yellowknife and the surrounding areas faced evacuation due to wildfires. On August 17, Calgary activated a Municipal Emergency Plan, streamlining the process of accepting and accommodating displaced residents from the Northwest Territories.

According to CBC, almost 70% of Northwest Territories residents were displaced, and AHS placed 55 individuals in continuing care homes, including Bethany.

Safe at home after her summer in Calgary, Nana left a heartfelt message for the Bethany employees, expressing gratitude for the care received. For Bethany Calgary, the evacuees continue to have a lasting impact on the employees and residents. Says Vance, “They have become part of us, the People of Bethany.”