By Patrick O’Neill, Team Rubicon
(On May 1, 2016, fire broke out in Alberta, Canada, quickly turning into a conflagration that swept through the community of Fort McMurray, destroying 2,400 homes and buildings and forcing the evacuation of more than 80-thousand residents. It took more than two months and the efforts of thousands of fire fighters for the Horse River fire, as it came to be called, to be brought under control. We are proud to report that also on the ground to offer aid and comfort was Team Rubicon, founded in 2010 by Hearts on Fire visionaries Jacob Wood and William McNulty. While helping out after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, they realized that natural disasters pose many of the same problems that confront troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: unstable populations, limited resources, horrific sights, sounds and smells. TR is a disaster response organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. The skills cultivated on the battlefield – emergency medicine, risk assessment and mitigation, teamwork and decisive leadership – are invaluable in disaster zones. That is why TR headed to Alberta in the aftermath of the most costly firestorm in Canada’s history. Here is their story.)
The wildfire that spread across Fort McMurray, Alberta will go down as Team Rubicon’s first call to action in Canada and was known as Operation Pay Dirt. Eighty volunteers from the newly-emerging TR Canada, along with members of TR Australia, TR UK, and TR USA banded together with a mission to ease the heartbreak of the returning Fort McMurray residents in the wake of the devastating fires. The international effort was also Team Rubicon’s first response in which all TR organizations were represented on a single operation. Volunteers comprised of mostly military veterans led homeowners through the rubble and ash to search for anything they could salvage to remind victims of their past - simple things - which carried a message that all hope was not lost.
Nargis Sameer, a Fort McMurray resident, had been separated from a
wedding ring during the evacuation, but later discovered it thanks to the help of Team Rubicon. “I know I lost my home, but what we found today – it’s the happiest day of my life,” Nargis said.
Amber Lecky followed Team Rubicon through burnt debris where her
house once stood, searching for her father’s ashes and recovering a piece of the urn. “I can now move on with this horrible thing that has happened in my life thanks to you and your team. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Amber said.
The Fort McMurray operation was launched on May 30, 2016 and sifting operations continued until June 23. Between 20 and 40 teams of volunteers were divided across nine Fort McMurray communities and worked effectively as a team with a purpose and passion for service. Volunteers clocked over 8,900 hours of their time to help those in need.
William McNulty, cofounder and CEO of Team Rubicon Global, summed up Operation Pay Dirt:
“The performance of our Team Rubicon Canada teammates proves that the common skills of veterans make them incredible assets to their communities in times of disaster. We look forward to the continued success of Team Rubicon Canada and congratulate them on their first successful mission.”
Currently, Team Rubicon is deployed to West Virginia on Operation
Country Roads, cleaning up after the floodwaters and assisting those affected at no cost. In a humanitarian effort, volunteers are also providing emergency medical care to refugees in northern Greece, known as Operation Hermes.
Since its creation in 2010, Team Rubicon has grown to 35,000 members and conducted 136 operations impacting thousands of lives in Haiti, Chile, Burma, Pakistan, Sudan, the Philippines, Nepal and Canada, and many states here at home, including Vermont, New York, Maryland, Missouri, Alabama and New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.To donate and help build resources for TR’s urgent missions visit: