It has been an intense time for the people of Fort McMurray, Alberta. All hell (that’s what it looked like) broke loose on May 3rd, 2016. I am sure many of you are aware of the travesty and probably sick of hearing about it, I thought I’d just say a couple worlds.
First, I can’t even start to imagine what was going through peoples minds when this all started. You watch the videos below and see people driving through flames on both sides, some one motorcycles trying to flee the city. Holy fuck!
As many of you know I work in a camp north of Fort Mac, I never mention where or who I work for out of respect for those parties. Plus I’m sure none of those companies would want to be linked to my crazy ass HA! I do however want to say that all the companies in the oil sands but everything aside and came through for the people of Fort McMurray like I would have never imagined.
About 2PM one of my colleague returned from dropping another colleague off at the Fort McMurray airport to leave on rotation. He was talking about how beautiful of a day it was in Fort Mac and wished he could have stayed longer. It was shortly after that we started hearing from guests that there was a wild fire starting to ramp up near the city. There started to be a buzz around, but we couldn’t find anything on the news. Then one of my co-workers boyfriend sent us this video:
That is when panic started to sink in, and we started becoming inundated with phone calls saying the fire had hit the city and they needed to flee. It all happened so fast we had no idea what to do. We started making phone calls to see what was going on and how we were supposed to proceed. That’s when all the screens in the lobby went red:
Then the news started showing what was going on. Our phone still ringing off the hook from people looking to get out of Fort McMurray. The oil companies started to rally the troops. Getting busses and flight for non essential people to start freeing up beds for people that no longer had homes, or places to go. The camp immediately went into 24hr mode. Getting workers out and cleaning beds for families. Mayhem all over the TV now.
Workers were being flown out throughout the night to make room. It was such a strange feeling to be far away out of harms way, watching the news and seeing the devastation having calls come in from people looking for help, and trying understand and process everything. It wasn’t until the first families started arriving that it really started to hit you. Seeing children and pets walk into a camp I had opened and been in for almost 3 years floored me. I never thought that was something I’d see. Dogs were barking at one another and children hoping up on furniture was surreal as hell. And most people were in good spirits. This was about 10 hours after after the fires had begun to take the city. These poor people had lost everything, and then been stuck on a highway being turned away from other full locations and most were just so happy to be able to sit and rest. Children were in good spirits, laughing and playing in a lobby that had never seen their kind before.
There was one moment in particular I will remember forever. A family came in, and the daughter was watching the news that was on in the lobby and started weeping uncontrollably. She yelled out to her family “that’s our house! Our house is gone!” Even typing that I have a lump in my throat the size of a softball. Her family grabbed her and hugged her tight. Telling her “it’s ok. We are safe, and we can rebuild.” That was one of those moments that reminded me just how perseverant us as humans are. What a great way to look at it. Stuff is stuff. To be safe and healthy means so much more.
Workers that were still in the lodge were offering to give up their beds for families, and helping out any way they could. The human spirit had taken over and it was real. The next couple of days feel like a blur now. It was both extremely emotional and with little sleep, physically exhausting. The people I work with are amazing. Everyone chipped in and gave everything they could. By the time we evacuated, we looked like zombies. Even though we were as far north as you could go, government officials order everyone to get out of northern Alberta as the fire was so big there was no telling if it could keep going to swing up to us. It was so big that it had started to crate it’s own weather.
This began to be a massive concern as lightening started to spread the fire, even up near us. By Friday afternoon everyone except essential services staff had been flown out.
It looks like the fire fighters finally have things under control, although its said it will take about a month or two for them to go over everything and check for hot spots. To make sure nothing else is going to flare up and start the whole thing over again. Workers started flying back up a couple days ago and I return next week. It sounds like everyone is working like crazy to get things back up and running, but I can’t stress just how impressed I am with both my colleges and the companies that work up there. Actually lets be real, Alberta in general has impress they shit out of me with the amount of fund raising, charity, taking evacuees in their homes, the business’ that are offering discount or free services, and so so much more. “Alberta Strong” isn’t just a statement… it’s the truth. For a province that has been essentially in a recession, arguments over pipelines, jobs being lost like crazy, EVERYONE has come forward and made sure no one goes without. I have only lived in Alberta for 7 years, but it feels like home. I am very proud of every one, and very proud to live in Alberta.
FYFC has donated to the red cross… if you have some cash, toss it their way. The people of Fort McMurray are going to need it. To donate $5 text “REDCROSS” to 30333. To donate more please follow the link here.
Here are a bunch of videos from YouTube to give you an idea of what happened, and what is still going on. It’s insane to watch.