A Fort McMurray couple who fled to Saskatchewan amid the ongoing wildfires want to connect with other evacuees in the province to share resources and support.
Heather Meyer, 50, and her husband Mathew, 52, have spent the last week in a trailer on their undeveloped land near Wynyard after wildfire forced the entire northern Alberta city to evacuate. They bought the land three years ago and intend to move there when they retire.
“We thought ‘wouldn’t that be nice if we had this place mostly paid off and maybe we could retire a little bit early?’ but we’re here earlier, so that’s OK too,” Meyer said with a sad chuckle.
The couple have lived in the Thickwood neighbourhood for the past four years with their daughter, son-in-law and two-month-old granddaughter.
When the evacuation order hit Tuesday, they quickly grabbed a few supplies before facing traffic grid lock and fire on the streets. Meyer said she brought one photo album but had to leave many keepsakes behind.
Some houses in their neighbourhood were destroyed, but Meyer doesn’t know if their home was among them.
“We’re not doing very well emotionally because we built a life there, but we’re also very grateful to have this (acreage) here,” she said.
Anybody who wants to call me and have a little cry.
Her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter went to Edmonton before heading to British Columbia.
The hardest part has been the separation from friends and family, Meyer said. She would like to get in touch with other evacuees who came to Saskatchewan to share information and take comfort in one another.
“Anybody who wants to call me and have a little cry or anything like that, I’m a good listener too,” she said.
Evacuees who want to get in touch with the Meyers can go through their family-friend Steff O’Neill’s Facebook profile. Because the couple have no television and limited access to the internet, O’Neill has helped them find local resources. Meyer said O’Neill has been their “angel on earth.”
Meyer said she has shied away from internet activity because photos of the fire in the news and online bring back painful memories.
“I look at the pictures and I start crying,” she said, sniffing back tears. “The flames, I just don’t want to look at it any more.”
Meyer said they have what they need in the short term, but are trying to figure out what to do about car loans and other finances. The couple also have new expenses like food and will travel to Saskatoon Wednesday to pick up a new mattress to replace the aging one in the trailer.
Until they can return home, she said they will take it day-by-day and are thankful they have a safe, quiet place to stay.