The entire population of the city of Fort McMurray has been evacuated due to threat from a forest fire that has, according to the local press, completely consumed at least one suburb in the south end of the city.
The fire, however, impacts much of the rest of the country, including Campbell River where former residents or family members now working in Fort McMurray have had their lives disrupted. Many are concerned about their well being.
Ian Husband, who spent most of his life in Campbell River, was one of the 80,000 people who slowly made their way out of the city on Tuesday.
“It was ominous,” he told Gord Kurbis of CTV Vancouver Island. “The whole sky went dark.”
Husband said that the evacuation was somewhat chaotic.
“At one point we were unable to go south because of the fire so that forced everybody out north, and all of the evacuation happened that day and it is kind of hard to get that many people out on a two lane road, so that was part of the problem,” he said.
Kelly Thomas moved back to Campbell River from Fort McMurray in September. Her son and her daughter’s boyfriend were also part of the mass exodus.
“To get out of Fort McMurray it took hours and hours,” she told the Mirror. The normally four and a half hour drive to Edmonton was taking all day.
Her son relayed stories to her of fire beside the highway as he exited the city. People were driving on the boulevards, hitting cars and continuing on because they were in such a hurry to leave. He said there was mass panic.
He only had three-quarters of a tank of gas and turned the engine off when traffic was at a stand still to preserve it.
Thomas is just happy that everyone is out safe.
“I’m sick for all the firefighters though,” she said. “It must be pretty hairy up there now.”
Thomas and her husband moved to Fort McMurray after the Elk Falls mill closed. They lived there for seven years.
Thomas said there were a lot of good people there and that her children love living there.
“It’s going to be so hard for so many people,” she said. “We have no idea.”
Kim Richardson also used to live in Fort McMurray. She and a friend are going to collect donations to aid the families who have been displaced by the fire.
The plans aren’t set in stone yet, but Richardson said they are considering driving the donations up themselves.
For those who are interested in getting involved she can be contacted via Facebook.
The Mirror will endeavour to bring you more stories from Campbell Riverites impacted by the devastating fire.