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Red Deer roundup: Fort McMurray fire overshadows all; how to donate to relief efforts

Every week I’m able to clear my mind and put together this piece as I get more and more excited for CFL football to return in June.

This week is different.

Honestly, I’m having a hard time getting really excited for anything after the Fort McMurray wildfire escalated on Tuesday, forcing over 80,000 people out of their homes.

Since then we’ve seen hundreds of images on the news and online including this terrifying account from a Fort McMurray man’s dash cam as he fled the city:

I can’t even begin to imagine how I would react if I were put in the same situation.

Three days later, I can now say I’ve never been prouder to be Canadian. Support has been pouring in from all over the province, country *and* continent. It takes damn near a miracle to evacuate a city of that size with relatively no incidents and it takes amazing people to be there to offer support to these people with nowhere to go.

Stories of every day citizens heading up Highway 63 with fuel and food is nothing short of inspiring. People all over Alberta have been offering up their spare bedrooms or empty cabins to these people who have been forced away. The sporting world has gotten involved with Graham DeLaet, the St. Louis Blues, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames donating to the relief efforts.

I’m proud to work for a radio station that called ahead to the crisis centers to find out what would help make the situation better for the evacuees. We are currently holding a Toy Drive to help brighten a child’s day and the rest of the city of Red Deer is doing everything they can to raise funds. It’s incredible what people can do when they put their differences aside and work towards a goal.

Stay strong, Fort McMurray. We have your back.

•  All nine CFL teams have united to donate $50,000 to the Canadian Red Cross as well.

You can help to by going here. You can also text “REDCROSS” to 30333 to donate $5 and “FIRES” to 45678 to donate $10.

•  Fort McMurray hosted two CFL games last year with the Esks playing the Riders during the pre-season and the Esks playing the Argos during Week 1. The Eskimos will now be visiting evacuees housed at Northlands this Saturday. That’s what being a champion is all about.

•  As we get into some actual on-field news, the Edmonton Eskimos released international running back Nic Grigsby on Tuesday. Grigsby was released by Hamilton during training camp last year and then signed in Edmonton to help with depth at the position.

•  Contrary to earlier reports, Zach Collaros will *not* be 100% for Hamilton training camp this year. He’s one of the league’s bright stars so the sooner he returns, the better it is for all fans of the CFL.

•  Collaros should definitely be ready by Labour Day and it looks like they are planning quite the event in the Hammer. My sister decided she’s getting married this Labour Day Weekend so I don’t know what I’m going to do to get my football fix in!

•  Another day another retirement. Defensive back Jonathan Hefney signed a one-day contract with Winnipeg to retire a Blue Bomber. Hefney was having a great year for Montreal until a nasty neck injury against Ottawa last October has apparently forced him into retirement.

•  Roughriders defensive linemen Tearrius George has also retired after a domestic assault charge.

•  Eric Norwood is no longer a Tiger-Cat. The 27-year-old had 13 sacks in 2014 but had an injury shortened season in 2015. I can’t see the season starting while Norwood doesn’t have a job.

•  Congratulations to three-time Grey Cup Champion Danny McManus for being inducted into Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats Hall of Fame. A word of advice: Never get 2 and Out’s John Fraser to take your photo with Danny Mac at the Spirit of Edmonton.

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He *actually* thought the picture was clear after taking it. That’s the scary part.

•  The Esks traded offensive linemen Thaddeus Coleman to Saskatchewan for the rights of two negotiation list players. Wouldn’t it be fun if we actually knew who those players were? Johnny Football? Josh Gordon?

•  Edmonton also signed 27-year-old international offensive linemen Joel Figueroa. The Miami product started 26 games over three seasons with the Tiger-Cats.

•  The Toronto Raptors finally won the franchise’s first ever seven-game playoff series. Can they win their second against Miami? The series is tied at 1...

•  Hey, it was the Rock’s birthday on Tuesday. He was once on Calgary’s practice squad...

•  It’s about time the Lions extended young quarterback Jonathon Jennings. Jennings was one of the most exciting young quarterbacks to emerge in 2015 and will be a Leo through 2018.

•  Stefan Ptaszek is the new offensive coordinator in Hamilton. He doesn’t have to go far since he has been McMaster University’s head coach for the past 10 years.

•  We are now one step closer to the CFL season with the draft happening on Tuesday. Take a look at the CFL Scouting Bureau’s Final Rankings and know that the draft has now been expanded from seven rounds to eight, meaning nine more Canadians will have an opportunity at a training camp invite. The first round of the draft will be shown on TSN while the rest will be streamed on their mobile app.

Yes, it’s *almost* June.

– written by Travis Currah