Most of us are familiar with Smokey the Bear from our childhood. He was the affable mascot who educated people about the dangers of forest fires and how we can prevent them. We all remember his most recent slogan: "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires."
While Smokey's message is widely recognized across North America, many people - particularly city dwellers - don't usually give forests and wildfires much thought. That is, until the Fort McMurray wildfires began spreading across northeast Alberta, Canada. The tragedy has led to a mass evacuation of the region's inhabitants, rendering countless people homeless and with nothing more than the shirts on their backs.
The powerful wildfires are predicted to continue expanding for another few weeks. It has wiped out thousands of homes and buildings, leaving behind only the skeleton of what was once a beautiful town.
Over 150 firefighters have been courageously fighting the wildfires since it broke out less than two weeks ago. While the city suffered inevitable damages, it is estimated that the firefighters' tireless efforts helped to save 85 to 90 percent of Fort McMurray, according to CBC News.
While those who are fleeing from their hometown are struggling to deal with the devastation of losing everything they have ever owned, two airlines are extending a helping hand to make the evacuation just a little easier on the victims.
Canadian airlines WestJet and Canadian North are temporarily ignoring their own rule that prohibits pets from traveling in the main cabin.
During a distressing time like this, the comfort of a beloved pet can make a world of difference.
As we all know, animals are typically not allowed in the main cabin with other passengers. They are usually required to travel in the plane's cargo hold in a crate. During this critical time, many passengers only have a small handful of items with them, which doesn't include their pets' crates.
Given everything that these evacuees are going through, a small gesture like this goes a long way. Pets can provide their owners with the comfort and sense of familiarity that they so badly need right now.
"It's definitely unusual to carry pets in the cabin, but due to the unusual circumstances, we were able to bend the rules to accommodate these animals," a representative from Canadian North announced to Huffington Post Canada.
While it is incredibly sad that some pets were left behind due to the urgency of the situation, it is nonetheless very heartwarming to see all the beloved animals next to their owners on the flights and brightening up everyone's day a little.
Since Tuesday evening, Canadian North alone has run dozens of evacuation flights to bring Fort McMurray residents to safety. Their benevolent efforts and thoughtful accommodations have received quite a bit of applause across social media.
Many photos of passengers with their pets on the flights have been circling the internet and going viral.
Although there are a plethora of devastating images depicting the destruction that the Fort McMurray wildfires have caused, it is still heartwarming to see that these strong-willed survivors will persevere. To learn more about the plight of Fort McMurray’s residents, be sure to check out the video below.
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H/T: The Dodo