More than 80,000 people have been evacuated from Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities and the wildfire continues to burn.
Many people have no idea when they will be able to return home, or what they will be going home too.
On the Saskatchewan Day of Caring for Fort McMurray, the stories of evacuees inspired people to donate to the Red Cross.
Evacuees like Natasha Nicholson, who fled the city with her family as flames began hitting some of the houses on the road out of town, shared her story.
“I’m numb. I go from crying to being numb, to crying again – I don’t know how to explain it; it was like being part of a movie,” she said.
While she believes her house is OK, she is losing hope with each fire update she hears. She is overwhelmed by the generosity of events like the Saskatchewan Day of Caring for Fort McMurray.
“Fort McMurray is not used to needing help. We’re the helpers. We donate to everyone else, and we help everyone,” Nicholson explained, breaking down in tears. “It’s an awful feeling to all of a sudden to be so humbled to know that we’re in that boat. My kids are going to need clothes, my kids don’t have shampoo … and I can’t even wrap my head around that.”
Jason Blair said his family was lucky to evacuate the city quickly. He didn’t have enough gas to get very far, but he made it to a nearby camp with his wife, two-year-old son and their newborn daughter.
“What do we do now? We can’t go south, the highway’s closed. We can’t do this. What are we going to do?” he said, describing the thoughts racing through his head when they made it out. “We don’t have any food. When you evacuate, you don’t clean out the fridge. It’s not the first thing on your mind. It’s just – get out.”
The family were able to catch an emergency flight to Calgary, but Blair said it breaks his heart that they got away so easily while many of his friends were left behind.
Scott Barr is the principal of École McTavish Junior High Public School in Fort McMurray. When the evacuation began, he and other teachers stayed to help the students as they waited for their parents – many of whom were stuck in gridlocked traffic trying to get there.
“The last student actually went with myself and my family and we drove them out of town to Anzac because we knew where her parents were,” Barr described. “Her, her two dogs, her cat were in the car with myself and another teacher and we drove to the highway where her parents were and we stopped and walked across the highway and reunited her with her family.”
He is really proud of the teachers, describing them as heroes who stayed to help the kids through a tough time.
Barr doesn’t know if his house is still standing, explaining that if it is he is one of the lucky ones.
The Red Cross will continue to take donations for the Alberta Wildfires Appeal in person at offices in Regina and Saskatoon, by phone or online through the Alberta Fires Appeal or by phone
There is an option to donate by texting ‘redcross’ to 30333, however it does not work through SaskTel.