Times are tough but Albertan’s are tougher; Our experience during the Fort McMurray Wildfire [Part 1]

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the news & social media, our city has been completely evacuated except for emergency response teams, animal rescues and other volunteers. Just do a little googling and you will find an abundance of information. First off I want to thank everyone for all of the phone calls, text messages, emails and messages on social media regarding my family’s safety. We are safe in my home province of BC. I want to tell you all our story of our experience during our escape from the out of control fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

#WeAreAlbertaStrong ♥

Saturday April 30th, 2016;
A small fire started a ways behind my neighborhood near the river (which you can see a few photos down in the background with Rolo overlooking the river). There was three helicopters with water buckets attached to them dumping water on it, while grounds crews worked the blaze from the floor. I am not sure if the fire actually got completely put out but the air and everything seemed not bad the next day.

I Survived because the fire inside me burned stronger than the fire around me ♥

Sunday May 1st, 2016;
When I woke up, it seemed like a normal day, didn’t see any smoke in the sky near our house, me and my step son went about the day as my husband was at work. We went running errands; stopped for a visit at Rolo’s former shelter; the Fort McMurray SPCA, picked out paint colors for the kid’s bedroom, got some groceries, went on a date to Starbucks for some frappachinos and then went home. Later on in the day I looked out on the patio and seen smoke AGAIN. From what I could see it looked like it was coming from the same area as the one the previous day, but it was pretty far away so I am not really that sure. I get a message from my husband telling me that an area on the North end of town was on fire (I am not sure which date this fire actually started, but it was visibly seen by him on Sunday evening). This was located between a mini industrial park and a residential area. There were planes dropping bright red fire-retardant on the fire as well as bucket helicopters and grounds crews working to get the blaze out.
13151687_10154108263212645_6525291399418839035_nAs for the fire that was blazing south of town that we could see from our house, there was two areas under mandatory evacuation as of 11pm (centennial trailer park and the municipal landfill area) and also a “shelter in place” put in for prairie creek and gregoire, as seen on the photo above. The emergency services have put up a fire break line as well as a retardant line to try to stop the fire and keep it contained.  (Above Photo Credit: http://www.facebook.com/rmwoodbuffalo)
IMG_7194Monday May 2nd, 2016;
I woke up as usual to head to my job. Our house was super smokey in the morning, so instead of leaving Rolo home like normal he came to work with me, as the air quality up north was a lot better than at our house. I turned off the AC in the house to allow the smoke to stay out. Rolo was just so excited to see his best friends Beatrice & Kit and hang out with them for the day. They napped, went outside for a walk about, ate treats and had some belly scratches. Oh to have the life of a dog! IMG_7195Tuesday May 3rd, 2016; Evacuation Day – Now this is the long story!
In the morning when I woke up for work, the skies looked beautiful. No smoke was to be seen so I decided to leave Rolo at home while I went to work as his dad was off that day. We took a selfie before I took off for the day and posted it to Instagram. About 130pm I got a photo message from my husband, who was at Macdonald Island park playing hockey, of the skies looking towards our house. They were smoke-filled. literally right after that they announced on the radio that 3 areas of town including my area were under volunteer evacuation BUT we needed to be ready to leave within a 30 minute notice. I left work and headed home. The two photos after our selfie picture above is what I saw on my drive into town. My work is about 20 km or so from my house. My husband was there already packing up some of our things to load up and head down south. We had already put together a 72 hour kit along with our important documents and valuables, so they were easy to grab. We loaded up the truck and my suv and said goodbye to our house.

Our place is located on top of a hill (that took about 20 minutes to get down as it was so congested), there is one way in and one way out of our area. There is a bridge at the end of the hill that goes over the main highway where you can either go North to site or South to Edmonton. Police had the exit blocked off to head south so we took a detour through downtown to try to get across the next & last bridge to head south as that was the ONLY way we wanted to go. We didn’t want to get forced up north to site aka a dead-end, so we were going to do anything we could to get out. As we were going across the next exit bridge which was the last and only way to get south the treeline caught fire. As we turned I could feel the heat coming off the trees and was so scared that it was going to get to me. We made it onto the highway and started heading up the hill towards Beacon Hill/Gregoire. As we drove through that area of town it was very slow going and flames were on both sides of the highway. As we passed centennial park (one of the first areas to get evacuated) I had to take my sweater that was next to me and cover my mouth and nose as I didn’t want to breathe in all the smoke. I followed my husbands truck as we convoyed out-of-town, but at some point I ended up quite a few cars behind him so he was freaking out and kept trying to call me(which I didn’t know he was doing). Phones were seldomly working due to well.. an emergency crisis going on in town, definitely a network overload for all service providers. I seen him pulled over on the highway and turned off, we were back together again. Along the way there was vehicle after vehicle in the ditch, or on the sides of the roads with people in them and beside them waiting it out.

The whole day was like something out of a horrible horrible scary movie.

As there was no time to stop for gas as we headed towards our camper, which is located 2 hours south. I knew I didn’t have enough gas to make it to the camper but my husband and his truck did. I pulled off only about 12km away from our camper (I was so close!) as my tank said ZERO km’s left. He ran to town with the jerry cans and got some gas for me. I got out a blanket and sat in front of my SUV with Rolo and some water in the shade (first photo below). I actually had 3 people stop and check on me, I assured them I was fine and my husband would be right back. He showed up and off I went to the gas station to fill up and get some snacks as all we had to eat with us was the food in the 72 hour kit which consisted of safari noodles and beefaroni. 
IMG_7197We made it to the camper and settled in as we didn’t know how long we would be there for, or what our game plan was. We stayed for two nights and decided it would be better for me and my very pregnant belly to go to my mom & step dads house in southern BC. We drove and made it to BC. I am so thankful that through all of this Rolo did not have any seizures as they are usually brought on by stress.

Stay Safe Everyone!
♥ Kimberley & Rolo

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25 thoughts on “Times are tough but Albertan’s are tougher; Our experience during the Fort McMurray Wildfire [Part 1]

  1. Tamie Johnson says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us Kim, Brett and Rolo ! I can only imagine some of the thoughts that were going through your head. Glad you are all safe ! I am looking forward to reading Part 2 ! Aunty Tamie

  2. Jan K says:

    We can only imagine just how scary that must have been. Glad to hear that you are safe now, and hope that you will be able to go home soon.

    • Kimberley says:

      They did state the other day that is a re-enty date deemed. I wont be going back at that time though as I want my place to be safe for a newborn (she shoudl be here sometime soon!) BUT my husband will to make everything safe.

    • Kimberley says:

      Safe is all that matters :) BUT we are lucky to know that our townhouse is still standing, despite being RIGHT beside another townhouse complex that completely burned down. I cant wait to get back up there and start helping everyone out.

  3. dashkitten says:

    Lady, anyone who doesn’t know about one of the biggest most serious fires EVER must be living under a rock and deep in a hole in the ground!!! I am following events from here in New Zealand with great anxiety for anyone with pets, and for the firefighters working hard to contain such an insanely large blaze. I am glad you are safe.

    Marjorie and the Dash Kitten Crew

    • Kimberley says:

      They are all working extremely hard up there to get everything under control and ready so that we can return. I am so thankful for everyone who has helped up there so far.

  4. Nellie (who use to be the cat from hell) says:

    Hi, my name is Barb and I am Nellie (Who used to be the Cat From Hell)’s human.
    CK let us know about you, especailly afte I posted some of the CBC images and links about the fire up in Ft Mac. Alas, I do not get to blog as much as I would like, or I used to, but Nellie and I still try to post a couple of times a week. I am a former Albertan who now lives in BC.
    Both myself and my husband have spent some time up in Ft McMurray. We still have a number of friends who are up there. Though I am currently in Vancouver (one has to travel to where the jobs are), we have a home in Midway, BC, where the fires were last summer – the Rock Creek fire was the one that hit the news, but the devastation just south of us on the US side was incredible. At one point, we were totally surrounded and none of the roads in or out were open. Living though a fire, evacuations and seeing our friends houses and livelihoods go up in smoke is an experience I would not want for anybody.
    I am sending you much love and strength. And I shall now be following your blog.

  5. Lindsay says:

    Hey there,
    I’m writing from Ontario… How are you guys doing today? I just cannot believe what I’m seeing on the news, in the papers…. I couldn’t imagine being in your shoes and grabbing what I can and my beloved dogs to run for the hills. I’ve seen some pretty terrifying videos… Holy smokes! It’s devastating to see what is left behind… Not much of anything at all!!

    New follower and I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances but nevertheless, grateful to find you.

    Please keep us posted and let us know if you need anything or how we can help you.

    Stay safe!

  6. Knotty Toys for Good Dogs says:

    We are so happy to read that you, baby, hubby & Rolo made it out safely. Having just experienced the devastation of fire ourselves, are hearts go out to you & all those both human & non human animals that have suffered through this terrifying experience.
    <3 nose nudges <3 Olivia

  7. Jodi says:

    What a horrible, scary thing. I’m so glad you all were able to make it out and that you had a safe place to go to.

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