Weekly update: Beer, body slams and wildfires brewing in Fort McMurray

The news and events of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

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Happy Friday, Fort McMurray!

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  • FMFD Rooftop Campout: Fort McMurray firefighters are camping on the roof of the Eagle Ridge Tim Hortons again this year to raise money for local charities. Last year they raised $30,700 for the food bank, SPCA, Boys and Girls Club, Waypoints and the Centre of Hope. East Village Pub is hosting a pub night on April 19 and a family pancake breakfast on April 20 to support the campaign.
  • Northword Magazine’s Issue 29 Launch: The Northern Canada Collective Society of Writers launches NorthWord Magazine’s 29th issue, the Resilience edition. Guest edited by local poet and dance instructor Tineesha McKay. This free event, including an open mic, is at the Observation Area of the Fort McMurray International Airport on April 20 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Registration.
  • Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Keyano Theatre Company invites you to step into the lavish and decadent world of the 18th-century French aristocracy, where desire and treachery reign supreme. Keyano Theatre on April 26-27 and May 2-4. Tickets.
  • Spring Trade Show: April 26-28 at MacDonald Island Park. Tickets and information on vendors.
  • Unraveling the Mosaic: Puzzling the Pieces of Our Region: Keyano student Lynel Baguio is the latest featured artist at the Fort McMurray International Airport. Refreshments, live music, networking and an opportunity to see Baguio’s full exhibit on display will be at the airport’s observation area on May 1 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Information.
  • Drama Force: The Keyano Theatre Company’s young actors’ summer intensive program opens for registration soon. The program runs from July 29-August 17. Registration will be here on April 30 at 12:30 p.m.
  • Northern Bout: Western Canada’s highest stakes drift competition matched with freestyle motocross, monster trucks and stunt bikes. May 3 and 4 at MacDonald Island Park. Tickets.
  • Street Banner Program: Residents of all ages are invited to showcase their talents through the Street Banner Program. Selected designs will receive a $600 design fee. This year’s theme is Spirit of Water. Submissions will be shown across the region and at the Kirschner Family Community Art Gallery. Deadline is May 3 at 4 p.m. Information.
  • Red Dress Solidarity Walk and Memorial Round Dance: An event honouring the thousands of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people who have gone missing or been murdered. May 5 at Kiyam Community Park from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information.
  • Art for Social Change: Artists from Western Canada can submit proposals for site-specific public art installations creatively exploring the theme of accessibility. The call is open to any discipline. Up to six projects will be selected, each with a budget of up to $10,000. Deadline is May 6. Information.
  • Monster Pro Wrestling’s Dirty Deeds: Monster Pro Wrestling returns to Fort McMurray on May 11 at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre. Doors open at 6 p.m. Information and tickets.
  • Fort McMurray Oil Giants: Tickets and schedule for the upcoming baseball season are online. Opening day is May 24 against the Edmonton Prospects.
  • Wood Buffalo Regional Library hosts all-ages weekly events.
  • MacDonald Island Park updates its website with upcoming events and programs.
  • Wood Buffalo Volunteers has volunteer opportunities for different causes and non-profits across Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.
  • Obituaries: Obituaries, memorial notices and sympathy announcements.

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Wildland firefighters with Alberta Wildfire and members of the Fort McMurray Fire Department incinerate dead, dry vegetation during a controlled burn off Highway 63 near the Thickwood overpass in Fort McMurray on April 11, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Province prepares for wildfire season with increased hiring, education, and weekly updates

The Alberta government is hiring and training wildfire staff earlier, acquiring equipment to allow for nighttime firefighting and providing weekly updates.

Forestry and parks Minister Todd Loewen spoke at Alberta Wildfire’s first weekly update Thursday, saying there are more wildfires in 2024 than at this point last year.

Loewen said Alberta Wildfire has hired 297 wildland firefighters, 280 Firetrack contracted firefighters and 182 seasonal support staff. The goal is to hire 900 new staff by May 15, with 500 already being trained at the Hinton Training Centre.

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Earlier this month, all of Alberta was placed on fire advisory. As of April 18, Alberta Wildfire has fully extinguished 186 wildfires. There are currently 50 wildfires burning in the forest protection area of Alberta, four of which are considered as held.

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L-R: Albert Forsey and Trevor Wakeling take a break from brewing beers at Drum Brewing on April 11, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Drum Brewing serves a craft beer comeback by sticking to basics

As breweries opened across Alberta in recent years, a group of six friends became frustrated there was no local beer scene in Fort McMurray. That’s when Drum Brewing was born in a space with its own history of tapping into a local thirst for craft beers.

“We’re just a bunch of working people who like beers,” said Trevor Wakeling, one of the owners of Drum Brewing. “What bonded all of us together is we like to drink beer together.”

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The brewery equipment was left by the Wood Buffalo Brewing Co., which ran from 2013 to 2019. Wakeling was comfortable with the equipment because he brewed beers at 57 North, the restaurant that opened after the original brewery closed.

Before anyone says the space is cursed for brewers, Wakeling says the owners are running a business different from the previous tenants. The layout is about one-fifth of the space used by previous tenants. Wakeling says this let’s the brewery focus on a taproom culture and making beer locally.

“The other places were never busy enough to fill 200 seats. And we go to a lot of breweries and taprooms, and they generally seat about 40 people max,” said Wakeling.

“Buckshot” Bobby Brake at the debut of Monster Pro Wrestling in Fort McMurray at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre on Saturday, September 2, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Monster Pro Wrestling returning with ‘Buckshot’ homecoming

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Between classes at Keyano College, Cameron Brake and his friends joked they should drop out of their power engineering program and become professional wrestlers. Later that day, Brake saw an ad on Facebook that Monster Pro Wrestling (MPW) was looking for wrestlers.

“I thought ‘this is destiny. I’ve gotta do it,’” said Brake in an interview. “Now it is my greatest joy. It is the single greatest thing I’ve ever done and the thing that makes me the most happy in the world.”

On May 11, Brake–who wrestles as “Buckshot” Bobby Brake–will be in Fort McMurray for MPW: Dirty Deeds. This will be the second independent wrestling event in Fort McMurray since MPW came to Keyano College last September.

“That was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” said Brake. “To be able to bring this thing that I love and have pursued to my home is something I imagined doing since I was a little kid. It was perfect. All my friends and family were there, and I did something I love in a gym I played in as a child.”

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Jatinder “Jay” Notay, Keyano CEO and president, at a ceremony at the college’s Syncrude Sports and Wellness Centre on Friday, February 18, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network jpg, FM

Keyano not budging after students protest failed grades, academic misconduct

Keyano College’s leadership says it will not change any grades after about 50 international students, most of whom are in the early learning and child care program, protested their failed grades and academic misconduct charges last week.

Keyano’s stance is also being supported by the Students’ Association of Keyano College.

Jay Notay, Keyano’s CEO and president, said the academic misconduct charges include allegations of plagiarism, cheating and using ChatGPT on assignments. Some students demanded refunds, while others said they were entitled to a passing grade because they paid tuition.

Notay said the protests rattled staff and disrupted classes at Keyano College. Police were called, but no arrests were made.

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“We’re not in a position to give them what they’re asking for because it’s compromising our academic integrity,” said Notay.

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The Northern Lights shine and reflect on the Clearwater River in Fort McMurray Alta. on Wednesday September 28, 2016. Robert Murray/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Alberta tourism minister sees opportunities for Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo

The Alberta government has announced a goal of generating $25 billion in tourism dollars by 2035, more than double tourism spending in 2022.

Tourism and Sport Minister Joseph Schow says Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo is one of 10 regions identified as an area that needs help developing tourism.

The province has given the Fort McMurray Airport Authority $119,200 to help develop a strategic business case. This plan will look at new or additional routes out of Fort McMurray.

The municipality is also exploring tourism in the region. Encouraging sports tourism has been named a priority for the municipality and Fort McMurray’s athletic community. The municipality also has plans to preserve historical sites across the region. That plan was created after a report to council found 62 out of 194 historical sites still exist.

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“The north is such an incredible place to explore and there’s a case to be made that some may overlook it,” said Schow. “Our job is to draw attention to it and funnel more people there. The best way to do that is invest in access.”

A four-unit townhouse complex on St. Laurent Way in Timberlea, hours after it was heavily damaged by a fire during the early morning hours of April 12, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Two people injured in fire at four-unit townhouse complex in Timberlea

Two people were injured in an early morning fire that caused heavy damage to a fourplex townhouse in Timberlea.

Regional Emergency Services says reports of a fire at the St. Laurent Way complex were made at 2:32 a.m. on April 12. Firefighters arriving at the scene entered the building and rescued a person who was trapped in the basement.

Two pumper crews, a ladder truck and a command unit responded and brought the fire under control within a half hour. EMS, Wood Buffalo RCMP and other emergency workers also responded to the incident.

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The cause of the fire is being investigated, but the fire appears to have started on the deck of one of the units.

Police investigate theft of $5,000 worth of watches:

Police in Fort McMurray are trying to identify three men accused of stealing thousands of dollars worth of watches from Peter Pond Mall.

Wood Buffalo RCMP says that on April 11 at 5 p.m., three men at the Sport Check at the mall stole multiple Garmin watches that are valued at roughly $5,000.

Video surveillance shows one of the suspects walked to a dark-coloured Nissan SUV parked nearby and picked up the other two men who were waiting outside a mall entrance.

Calgarians celebrate during the Holi Festival of Colours at Bowness Park on Saturday April 13, 2024. Holi is a popular and significant Hindu festival celebrating colours, love and spring. Gavin Young/Postmedia
  • Pizza prank: Justin Rybicki is getting pretty tired of pizza. Since November, someone has ordered more than $1,000 worth of pizzas to the Spruce Grove man’s home and workplace. Rybicki and police have no idea why the anonymous prankster has continued the campaign.
  • Protest verdict: A Lethbridge jury has found three men guilty of mischief for their role in a 2022 COVID-19 protest that blocked cross-border traffic outside Coutts. A date for sentencing will be made on July 22. The maximum sentence for public mischief over $5,000 is 10 years in prison.
  • Breaking point: Alberta’s population in 2023 grew by 202,324 people to 4.8 million. This is equivalent to 550 people moving to Alberta daily, the largest annual increase in Alberta’s history. Economists say the growth has strengthened the economy, but rent and housing prices are going up, schools are packed, and newcomers are struggling to find family doctors.
  • Blue Sky City: Calgary Economic Development has replaced its old brand–Calgary: Be Part of the Energy–with a new brand: Blue Sky City. Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo doesn’t have a brand slogan, but the late Guy Boutilier was always fond of “we have the energy!”
  • Surgery access: An Edmonton man says patients need better access to reconstructive surgeries after invasive head and neck cancer treatments. Bernie Krewski, 85, was left with disintegrating teeth, problems swallowing and trouble speaking after enduring 32 radiation treatments and a 14-hour reconstructive surgery following his laryngectomy diagnosis.
  • Alberta Party leader: The Alberta Party has named Calgary corporate lawyer Lindsay Amantea as its interim leader. Amantea temporarily succeeds former Brooks mayor Barry Morishita as party leader of the party. The Alberta Party has failed to win a seat in legislature in the last two provincial elections.
  • Read up on the politics and culture of Alberta  with Postmedia’s subscriber-exclusive newsletter, What’s up with Alberta? Curated by the National Post’s Tyler Dawson every Tuesday and Thursday.

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