polo car india Evacuees find refuge in the Fort
Steady streams of displaced Fort McMurray evacuated individuals, couples, and families found their way to a volunteer led temporary donation evacuee centre at Fort Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Legion Branch 27 since May 4.
Leaning against the doorway to the Alberta Heartland Primary Care Network temporary help room, Aubrey Sweetapple looked on as his wife, Joy, seeks prescription information and received consoling hugs from PNC staff. The elderly couple relocated from Newfoundland to Fort McMurray seven years ago to be closer to their children and their young families. The Sweetapples were redirected twice through Fort McMurray as thousands of vehicles fled the burning city on May 3. After leaving his Timberlea neighbourhood, he drove through flames twice.
drove through Fort Mac around 12:30 at night. It was bumper to bumper. It was just chaos. You had eight lanes of traffic all going one way (south) and you have people trying to pass you driving in the ditch, selfish, the 65 year old recalled.
along the way there were buses, cars, taxis, trucks, everything was all stuck in the median from people who were trying to get away from the flames on the way out of town. I was woken up in a cold sweat and just sick. You don know where you going to, what you doing next. Who knows where we end up now.
When scaffolder Mike Johnston looked outside his door in the afternoon of May 3, he could see flames licking tree tops right behind his house. He recalled the white smoke turned to black and looked as if a thunderstorm was rolling in. His family was one of hundreds who found their way to Fort Saskatchewan after hearing about the evacuee centre from people staying in Wandering River.
house might still be up. Ours is really close to where everything was burned. We seen some videos that show it still standing but most of Abasand is not in good shape.
I was out of it. I was sick to my stomach. But I knew they were in good hands, they were with my sister, Lewis recalled.
In the commotion of packing, Johnston forgot to grab the boy bag on the stairway and his heart sank when he went to look for it later in their truck. The couple noted they were able to take personal photos and everything else can be replaced. Again with flames on either side of the streets, the couple described their journey south was like driving through an oven and heard propane tanks explode one after another. It almost like a living thing. It crazy. I never seen anything like it, he described.
The family returned to a camp in Wandering River to plan what next. Lewis eyes panned off into the distance, detailing what the first 72 hours.
just looks like zombies, especially people who have little kids. It heartbreaking, she said.
Emotionally drained parents, Peter Troy and Mindy Bradbury also found their way to the Legion, following a tiring 16 hour escape from Fort Mac to Morinville. Along with their six year old daughter, the couple was rerouted twice through the city.
the time we got through the city, everything was flattened, Troy said.
was smoky. There were flames going down the hill. The Super 8 was on fire. Everything was black. It was scary. It looked like we were in a really bad movie, Bradbury said, daughter looked at me and said, that real Mommy? She said it looked like lava was coming down the hill, full of flames. We just drove bumper to bumper for hours. Every time I close my eyes, that what I see. The couple is holding onto the hope their Thickwood home wasn taken by the flames.
had a bag that had a video camera and six SD cards with video and photos of Addison when she was a baby. The first time she walked and all that stuff. You can replace that, she said.
Thinking about what next and when they might be able to return is too mind boggling for all those affected.
don know what to do. I don know what to think. I don know where to turn, Bradbury said.
Launched on May 3, hundreds of local residents stepped up to coordinate the centre and organize the massive amount of donations coming through the Legion doors. Food, clothing, blankets, baby items, and pet supplies lined tables.
Countless trucks have been sent to other evacuee centres, such as Boyle, as well as supplies destined for McMurray firefighters. One of the many organizers, Tawnie Misik was overwhelmed by the support.
had more volunteers than we thought and more people came through than we thought. Other evacuee sites are sending people here. Northlands Expo people are talking about us there, it great. We want to be that community who helps out. We want to be there for Fort Mac, Misik said.
think Sheldon Bossert said it the best, are a small city with a big heart Everybody wants to do something. If they can offer money, they offer time. Just the amount of businesses who have been helping, and nobody wants a thank you, they just doing it, she added.
She noted evacuees who know their homes burned are prepared to rebuild, those who know their homes are safe know this situation is temporary, but the ones who don know either way what they have left are struggling the most.
A second donation centre was set up on Sunday at the old Sear building in the light industrial area, located at 114 8818 111 Street. Since May 4, the centre helped more than 1,300 evacuees.