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Sifting through the ashes: Humanitarian group prepares to help fire victims


On the well-worn Peggy’s Cove Road, there’s something new at the aging legion -- a field headquarters for a unique organization, now lending a hand after the Tantallon wildfire.

Team Rubicon Canada, a veteran-led humanitarian organization, arrived in Halifax this week to respond to the aftermath of the fires in Tantallon, and help lead the community through recovery efforts.

“We don’t self deploy,” said Steve MacBeth, Team Rubicon Canada’s chief operating officer.

“We work hand in hand with the community, and then with the homeowners, and that’s a really important partnership that we respect because what you don’t want to do is add a problem by showing up at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing,” said MacBeth.

Founded by some U.S. marines, Rubicon started as a response to the Haitian earthquake.

“The Canadian wing actually started because of the wildfire in Fort MacMurray in 2016,” said MacBeth.

“Similar to what we see here, it was Canadians who had then served down with the American organization. They came up and Team Rubicon was born from that fire.”

Some of the fire victims have now started the dangerous and heartbreaking task of combing through what's left of homes.

Andrew Vey managed to salvage some military medals, jewelry and coins on Monday.

"I thought maybe if I could take one small thing away at least for each person - if I could find something," Vey told CTV News.

Once they’re set-up, their focus will be on helping the victims by literally sifting through the ashes.

“We take that on for them so they can maybe enjoy some small piece that remains after the tragedy,” said MacBeth.

The team includes specialists like Brandy Alexander, a map maker in the military who jumped at the chance to utilize her skills in a place where they’re needed.

“I felt there might be a need here on the ground to support with the geospacial component,” Alexander told CTV News Wednesday.

While both the Nova Scotia fires are officially considered “under control,” the investigation into what caused them is ongoing.

“All wildfires are investigated, although it’s not always possible to pinpoint the exact cause,” Department of Natural Resources and Renewables spokesperson Patricia Jreige told CTV News via email.

“Investigations into the wildfires of the last two weeks are still ongoing. These wildfires were most likely caused by people in one way or another, though, because there have been no reports of lightning strikes.”

Back at the legion, where donations for fire victims are piling-up inside, would-be volunteers like Rick Hattin are showing up, hoping to help in any way they can.

Hattlin lives in the area and was prepared to evacuate when the fires broke out.

“We thought we were safe. Then we realized were weren’t safe, and, you just drive down Hammonds Plains Road, and you realize, ‘Good God’," he said.

Rubicon hopes to be helping victims as early as Saturday.

For Saskatchewan-born MacBeth, it’s a hands-on opportunity to assist those who may be feeling overwhelmed.

“Obviously, these events are incredibly traumatic and tragic in someone’s life,” he said.

“What we hope to do, prior to the rebuild occurring, is give the homeowner an opportunity to move back into the structure, where we take on the risk and the hard, sweaty work and maybe finding something that’s survived that connects them with their past.”

“Because, right now, they’re looking at what was, they have to deal with what is, and they have to start thinking about what will be,” he said.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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