“My heart overflowith.” Was the caption below one of my friends photos just a couple days after the entire town of Fort McMurray was evacuated due to a raging wildfire consuming much of the community.
The past few days have been a torrent of mixed emotions. There have been endless photos and videos of places where I just hung out only days ago, now burnt to the ground. Our town engulfed in flames that one would only imagine happening in apolcayptic movies.
I, myself had only left the morning that morning at 10am, before the single highway leading into Fort McMurray was gridlocked, closed and on fire. This was between 12-2pm on May 3, 2016. By this point I was halfway to Edmonton (the next and pretty much only city, save a couple of gas station villages in between). I normally avoid my phone when driving but my phone was lighting up with messages and images. I had left thinking the fire was under control but suddenly it must have changed, and my chest tightened with anxiety as each post came through.
Two days before the evacuation, we had seen smoke across the highway from her home. Earlier that day she told me her area was on watch for voluntary evacuation. I told her maybe she should pack a go- bag just in case. At that point she wasn’t concerned and invited me to come over.
I was in Gregoire having a drink on her patio when we went for a walk to see the smoke. 10 meters beyond her backyard we could see this.
(if this video does not play it’s posted on my Facebook page)
I looked at Andrea and I told her. “You need to get ready to leave, if we can see the flames it could change any moment.” If that wind changes, I told her that fire could be at her house in minutes.
She saw the seriousness in my face and she knew what I was talking about. Instantly she got on her phone and started calling. I gave her a hug and told her I needed to get my stuff and go home.
This was Sunday May 1, 2016. On the way home to Timberlea I could see water bombers in the sky and I parked my car by the river to watch them work. (Video below) The fire at this point was still confined to the forest and to many of us, seemed manageable but still a potential threat to some.
(if this video does not play it’s posted on my Facebook Page.)
By the next morning the smoke in the air was little and the sun was out, the sky was blue. It seemed to many of us that the fire was under control. Andrea had even told me she was allowed to go back home.
This was Monday May 2, 2016. The reason why I came back for the weekend was to perform in the Regional One Act Festival and finish moving my stuff from Fort Mcurray to Calgary.
This day was as beautiful of a day as any other summer day, I cleaned my car, read my book out in the back yard, and continued to pack the remainder of my things. That evening we had an amazing time performing our one act “Sure Thing.” After watching all the other brilliant performances I went out for drinks with my theatre friends, for what seemed to maybe be the last time in a long time….
**** Displaced residents of #ymmfires my home is open, if you need a place to rest, a shower, place to launder your things, food or a ride. I am close to the Calgary airport. Please message me or share my resources with someone else in need. 403.973.7386
If you would like to help: Donations can be made to Red Cross
And I am selling my Seto Pottery at Paint It Up Pottery studio, in Okotoks, AB, where 50% of my sales will go towards the victims of the YMM Fires.