The Day The City Burned
Last year on May 3rd my city was evacuated. 88000 of us fled for our lives and the safety of our children. No one knew how bad it was going to be and we were all so accustomed to forest fires around our city that our risk tolerance had gotten way too high.
That could never happen to us.
That could never happen in the city.
I'm overreacting, I don't need to flee.
These are the mantras we told ourselves over and over until homes started burning and the Emergency Signal came blasting through our radios.
I was at work that day. A decent 1/2hours drive to get to my son's daycare center. I took a bus into work every day for 5 years. They ship us in on great big coach buses and ship us home at the end of the day. I work at a huge site so I always assumed I would be able to take a truck home if I needed to. That day, I was too late. Everyone had the same idea as I had and had grabbed up all the town trucks. I was stuck.
That day my sister Terry who lives 4.5hours away from me and our friend Heather who lives in my home town were having a Facebook group chat about our diets.
They shared in every moment with me and I now have it documented for ever. Here is exactly what that first day was like for me.
Note: I've tried editing this and it's still too raw for me to keep re-reading. I'm sorry for any typos. I also left the next part un-edited to show you the truth of the conversation. there is some bad language, the situation warranted it at the time.
Facebook Chat May 3rd Transcript:
Ugh my scale hates me right now. Up nearly two pounds in two days
Luckily I know this is just bloat, got to wait it out
I'm dealing with the same over here. And baby has decided to join team no sleep for his whole life and it's starting to wear on me. He was up 6 times last night, pretty average for him
I saw that they were air dropping water there yesterday, any improvement on the fire situation?
Ahhh team no sleep, I know it well
I'm just looking for a fire update myself
It was raining ash yesterday
Fire update: we lucked out on winds and the fire hasn't reached the city
It's supposed to be 32 today and no rain in the for cast
They got the fire out that was 1.5km from my house. So that feels good
Yikes. So at what point do they have you leave home?
They evacuated a whole part of town yesterday for the other fire.
Saprae creek and Gregoir.
Where I live is very unlikely to ever be evacuated
Yeah they will firebreak the muskeg at the back of the hill
Is it farther in from the fire?
It depends what's between the houses and fires and if they worry the fire will spread
Forest fires are fought with bulldozers and backhoes
We went through this last year, part of work burned down
I don't get it. They dig around the fire?
Yep it's called a fire break
Nothing to burn so it moved
So will it eventually just die out or just keep moving until there is enough rain?
Colorado farmer battles wildfires in tractor
A US farmer risks his life to stop a wildfire that broke out in a hayfield in Weld County, Colorado. Eric Howard uses his tractor and a set of discs to
They do water bomb them too
They have the one blocked between two rivers and a firebreak
The problem is wind. If wind is blowing in the wrong directions the fire can jump pretty much anything
And use fire suppressants
Buts it's mostly trying to contain it in a circle and it burns out
The wind is going in the wrong direction today
Omg I just watched that video. That moves fast.
Yeah that farmer is nuts
Pizza AND ice cream at work today
I'm just sitting here eating lettuce
Day two of no sugar, dairy or gluten. Day one of massive headache that I think probably is directly related
The fire is crazy I'm freaking the fuck out
how far is that from your house?
Behind thick wood is on fire It jumped the Athabaska River
shut up! that's 1km wide.
They evacuated Abasand and now parts of Thickwood
What part do you live in?
I live beside Thickwood but luckily on the other sides
So now is it taking out houses?
no they are evac'ing for saftey
it's not even that big yet, that is super scary
it's around 13k hectares right? the one here last year jumped from 12 - 21 overnight at one point
you guys stock up on food and water yet? if you loose power it could be out for a while
and gas, get some extra gas
Everything is already bare
No food at the grocery stores
I'm super emotional about this for no reason
i would keep the bathtub filled just in case
not no reason, it's Fucking scary
you guys are more than welcome to be here
i would be freaking out too, not so much about the fire. they would get you out for sure.
about the infrastructure, food, power etc.
and you've only got two roads in/out, that makes it all the worse.
I think having Tuck in town is getting to me
i never even considered that, yeah i would freak out for sure
at least while i worked i knew Rob was in town
the air quality must be attrocious right now
I don't even have a car here I literally couldn't get home
Well, I'd take one they wouldn't be able to stop me
damn skippy you would
maybe drive in, you'll feel better
There's a turnaround happening
Zero parking available
It's friends posting from their homes
the closest it got to my house was about 3kms as the crow (and fire) flies
That's about 10minutes from my house
the one 86 kms north of fort mac would around the sites wouldn't it?
Wildfire in Fort McMurray 'beyond resources', Wood Buffalo officials
Dozens of firefighters remained on the scene of an out-of-control wildfire burning near Fort McMurray – officials said the fire was believed to have more than doubled in size since Monday.
I would go home if you've got time off you can take, just to feel safe
or at least call your day care and ask what the evac plan is, how they will get ahold of you, where you'll pick him up etc
I hadn't heard of that one
They do have an evac plan. One of the reasons we chose them over the other place.
They just put a mandatory evaction on thickwood
RMWB (@RMWoodBuffalo) | Twitter
Senaste Tweets från RMWB (@RMWoodBuffalo). Official account for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. This account is not monitored 24/7. Questions: call Pulse: 780-743-7000. Emergencies: call 9-1-1. Fort McMurray, Alberta
This is fucking crazy. Like you guys just talk about it like its normal. Get out of work, go get your baby and go to your sisters!
Just talked to Jess, they just evacuated Tucker
What you can't see in this picture is my FUCKING HOUSE!!!!
Come to my house
Kevin is on his way to get Tuck
I wouldn't let him wait for me to walk up
This is so scary
You guys are handling this really well
I'm crying in my office with the door closed
I'm not handling this at all
Go to your baby
Is Kevin coming to get you?
No, he's not. I told him to leave, better to get Tuck asap
Come to my house I can stay at dans you'll have the whole place
Call me if you want
Are they getting you home?
No gas in town
I can come get you guy tonight if you don't want to stay in the gym
What is happening
Let me know, I can bring water and gas cans and food
Even if you'd just feel safer with supplies I can head toward you guys and bring it
Meet you somewhere or go all the way
So we take greyhound busses to work
I can't go home until the bus takes me
I sent Kevin home with one of his coworker because he would have had to wait 15minutes for me to get there.
We have a full tank of gas!!!!
But the highway out is blocked.
i just read it's still open but expect delays
follow that twitter
that was 2 mins ago
Blocked with people trying to evacuate their houses.
well i can head in, bet that side is pretty clear
so does he have Tuck?
I'm very frazzled
I wonder what 881 is like
Will you guy be working tomorrow,
We are trying to get out
Fire is right on 63 now
Whoa, where did you see that
Kevin told me trailer park on 63 is on fire
Town is gridlocked
well you guys have my house if you can get out, maybe pack and leave at night?
try to get extra gas and stuff
actually fuck that, a full tank of gas would get you far enough out of town that i could get you
Can't get gas whole city is running out
i saw that
when do you get to leave?
Will you have to work tomorrow?
So you have to wait at work till 4:30 then the bus to town?
Still trying to get home
don't you have pumps at work? I'd be filling up jerry cans
i can use my own credit card to buy gas at work
Got a ride home
wonder if the airport is still running, it was this morning
I'm glad you found a ride
Kevin still isn't home
does he have Tuck yet?
Where is Tuck
Still at daycare
Closed the highway
to get home?
BreannaKarstensSmith on Twitter
“Major gridlock at the main intersection. It feels like everyone in the city is trying to get out #ymm #ymmfire https://t.co/dwiC36VYDo”
Can you get to Tuck?
He's been on his way this whole time
Is he almost there?
63 south or from site?
South of town
Let's make a list
You'll feel more in control
Start with the house, because that's where you'll be first
What do you have that could help
You have Tupperware and Rubbermaid bins that you can fill with water
What kind of food have you got?
Canned food Dry food Can opener Flashlights Blankets Batter charger
First aid kit
Kevin has done all those rescue courses, you've both got first aid
the list only works if you make it jess tongue emoticon
i will hire a mother fucking helicopter to come get you if i have too
Kevin's got Tucker
Fuck he didn't
Fuck fuck fuck
he hasn't grabbed him yet
Is he there though? Or close?
I'm going to kill him
i would too
It's jumped the highway south
I'm going to cry
i mean i'm fine
let's get you safe
I think we will be a actuated
i think so too, so let's make a list of what you will do if you're evaced and can't go home to get any supplies
Do you live in an area you can't go home to on that bulletin?
I live next to one I'm next
I'm at the bottom of confed
Kevin's got Tuck
Oh thank god
That just made me weepy
Haven't put Milo down since this convo started
We are evacuating now
ok, where are you heading too?
They are pretty much evacuating the whole town
Camps are filling up
keep us updated, i will for real hire a plane or copter to come get you
How's the smoke and drive?
Just leaving house
Fucking crazy here Strait out of a movie
The footage of the highway on the news shows that it's moving though, so that's good. It's slow but it's moving
Once in the road out
how is it?
Phone doesn't work most of the time
keep us posted when you can
We all got out that day. I slept in a work camp bed that had been shut down for a year. They opened it to give the thousands of people fleeing somewhere to stay. We left first thing the next morning and drove to my sister's home.
The next 6 weeks of evacuation were their own trial. I often think of them as harder than the fleeing itself. I was alone most of the time in Edmonton where I knew practically no one and was living in a hotel with my 1.5year old Tucker. Kevin had to go back to work in Fort McMurray to try to get the plant back working. I'm not going to sugar coat it. It was hard.
But there were people who helped. So many helpers. So many people willing to go out of their way to relieve my stress.
I made this last year because I was so full of thanks that I needed to express it.
Still holds true this year. Thank you to the people who fought the beast, who brought gas and water to those in need. To the people that opened their homes to strangers.
To the two women that helped me carry my groceries all the way to my hotel room because I was having such a hard time trying to wrangle Tucker.
You are all heroes in my life.