Stories from Fort McMurray’s Fire

May 18 2016

I live in Edmonton, Alberta. From what I gather, the big fire in Fort McMurray has probably made the news lately wherever you live.

Last week, a devastating forest fire tore into the city, forcing almost 90,000 people to evacuate. The fire consumed entire neighbourhoods, destroying 2400 structures. People from Fort McMurray won’t be able to return for some time, and they are living with strangers all across the province, including tens of thousands here in Edmonton.

I want to share some of the stories I’ve heard:

-A firefighter who wouldn’t stop after he and his crew failed to save his house from the flames, and while it was burning to the ground, moved on to the next house to save it. And then kept fighting to save other peoples’ homes for another 22 hours.

-The school teacher who made the decision to pile school children into a bus and drive them to safety for hours – and the kids who didn’t complain once.

-The mom carrying two children, who ran up to a man evacuating, and asked if he had room for two in his truck. He didn't, so without skipping a beat, he gave her - a complete stranger - the keys to his $80,000 car, and only upon reflection later realized that she had selflessly asked if he’d had room for 2 - not 3.

-The people of Fort McKay First Nation, who opened their homes to evacuees and fed and housed them – only to have to evacuate themselves when the fire got too close.

-The oil companies who sheltered and fed thousands free of charge, and evacuated them out by air when supplies ran low and the fire came close.

-The Syrian Refugees who’d lost their homes so recently, and pooled their resources to help those who lost theirs in Fort McMurray.

-The restaurants, bars, pharmacies, attractions, animal shelters, airbnbs, taxi drivers, parks, museums, storage facilities, summer camps, hotels, masseuses, movie theaters, landlords, opera, dress shops, carwashes, toy stores, artists, celebrities, strip club (yep, even the strip clubs), escape rooms, banks, electricity companies, clothing stores, seniors lodges, and thousands of everyday people who have offered up their wares, money, and services free of charge to evacuees.

-The municipal staff who stayed behind and worked around the clock to keep the water treatment plant running so the firefighters would continue to have water pressure to fight the fire.

-The people who piled two fainting goats into the cab of their truck and drove 10 hours to escape the flames.

-The man who escaped Fort McMurray, only to return to his home thousands of kilometers away in Cape Breton to find out it had burned to the ground.

-The man who lost his job, but was so grateful that his house was still standing that he wanted to donate his evacuee financial assistance cheques to someone who needed it more.

-Countless people driving through smoke, ash and embers, with flames towering next to them, their fuel light on, hoping they’ll make it out before running out of gas.

-The firefighters, pilots, police officers, paramedics and first responders who saved most of the city and got everyone out.

-Everyone who donated to the Red Cross.

If you are able, please consider making a donation to Canada’s Red Cross – Fort McMurray fire appeal.

[email protected]
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

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