By The Canadian Press
May 4, 2016, Ottawa - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will provide all possible assistance to Alberta as wildfires ravage Fort McMurray.
Canada is a country of people who help each other in challenging times, Trudeau told his caucus Wednesday.
''I've been dealing with offers of support and calls from the Atlantic provinces, all the way out to B.C., as people are looking for how they can support their friends and neighbours as people go through this difficult time.''
Trudeau urged people with friends or family in Fort McMurray to make sure they are OK and ask what help they need.
Federal leaders called on Canadians who want to help to donate to the Red Cross.
The prime minister said he has already spoken to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to offer his government's ''total support.''
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, in a conference call from Germany early Wednesday, confirmed a formal request for assistance has been received from the Alberta government.
Notley told a news conference that a memorandum of understanding had been signed with National Defence to provide helicopters for search-and-rescue efforts in isolated spots around Fort McMurray as well as transport aircraft to fly in firefighters.
''Our province is strong and we will get through this,'' she said.
The office of Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, the federal focal point for assistance, was expected to provide more details later Wednesday.
Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, an Edmonton MP, called the disaster heartbreaking.
''I know people who have fled the situation. Two of my friends arrived home safely in Edmonton. It took them nine hours to get there, but they're home _ home safe. It's very devastating.''
Opposition leader Rona Ambrose, who also hails from Alberta, called on residents to open their homes to evacuees.
''There's 80,000 people without a home to go back to at this point and need to be safely moved out of the region. It's a huge concern.''
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016