Fort McMurray couple come home to help out

Jim Maloney and his wife Gabriele were busy at the arena helping sort donations for Fort McMurray victims.

  • Tue May 17th, 2016 9:00am
  • News

By Treena Mielke

Jim Maloney and his wife Gabriele were busy at the arena last week helping sort through supplies, chatting with people and generally just trying to be in the right place at the right time.

The couple, who lived in Rimbey, until August of last year, are familiar with the town, know a lot of people and feel right at home here.

But, for the last several months, the Maloneys have lived in Fort McMurray.

And now here they are, back in Rimbey, helping out other people like themselves, who were forced to flee from their homes due to the wildfire that left many with nothing and feeling very uncertain about the future.

As it turns out, the Maloneys are among the lucky ones.

“Our house is okay,” said Maloney, his words echoed by his wife, Gabriele. “Our house is still standing.”

Ironically, Gabriele was not in Fort McMurray when the fires began, having come to Lethbridge to visit her daughter in university and stopping in at Bluffton to spend time with her mom, Barb Hannemann.

Her husband Jim, who works for Suncor had got off night shift and was one of the last to leave the next day, finally, reluctantly, heading out on Hwy. 63 about 9:30 p.m.

He said he felt like he should stay and help.

“I felt like a coward leaving,” he said, adding he has a military background and he was certain he could have been of help.

However, he decided to head out, as his wife was in Bluffton and also he was in charge of looking after the family’s cat, and his wife wanted him to bring their pet to safety.

Maloney noted that as much as people were racing to leave Fort McMurray, everything happened in an orderly, calm way.

“Nobody panicked. People seemed to know what to do.”

Now that the he and his wife are in Rimbey, Maloney is glad to help out here.

He said it is difficult for the people of Fort McMurray to accept handouts.

“They are used to giving, not receiving,” he said. “It’s hard for them.”

Acting as a liaison between the victims of the fire and the people in Rimbey is one way the Maloneys can make a difference.

“When I see people coming in, I can go talk to them and say, ‘hello, I’m from Fort McMurray, too and I’m here to help.’”

Ironically, Gabriele was not in Fort McMurray when the fires began, having come to Lethbridge to visit her daughter in university and stopping in at Bluffton to spend time with her mom, Barb Hannemann.

Her husband Jim, who works for Suncor had got off night shift and was one of the last to leave the next day, finally, reluctantly, heading out on Hwy. 63 about 9:30 p.m.

He said he felt like he should stay and help.

“I felt like a coward leaving,” he said, adding he has a military background and he was certain he could have been of help.

However, he decided to head out, as his wife was in Bluffton and also he was in charge of looking after the family’s cat, and his wife wanted him to bring their pet to safety.

Maloney noted that as much as people were racing to leave Fort McMurray, everything happened in an orderly, calm way.

“Nobody panicked. People seemed to know what to do.”

Now that the he and his wife are in Rimbey, Maloney is glad to help out here.

He said it is difficult for the people of Fort McMurray to accept handouts.

“They are used to giving, not receiving,” he said. “It’s hard for them.”

Acting as a liaison between the victims of the fire and the people in Rimbey is one way the Maloneys can make a difference.

“When I see people coming in, I can go talk to them and say, ‘hello, I’m from Fort McMurray, too and I’m here to help.’”