May seems like a perfect time of year for most people, spring has started and usually you can see flowers start to pop up everywhere, generally, it’s a pleasant welcome from winter.
Back track to November/2015, Arthur and I were driving across country to our new home. We left New Brunswick November.7th,2015 and got to our new home November.11th,2015. We got a puppy in December and named him Trapper.
Skip to May. The snow had finally melted, the weather had been really nice the past week or so. May.1st a small fire started in the woods near my house, it was what you deem out of control and there was a voluntary evacuation for that part of the neighborhood. I remember wanting to leave because I knew it was that time of year for wildfire season, nothing I had never had to seriously worry about but now living West it’s a little different. Arthur told me not to worry, that it wasn’t coming this way, it was burning in a different direction. I remember thinking I wanted to pack a bag, but shrugged it off as me worrying too much.
That night our apartment smelled like you had decided to set up a camp fire in it. By morning the smell was gone mostly, but outside still stunk.
May.2nd, outside you could see on the opposite side a new fire had started in Gregoire. You could see water bombers going, fire retardant being dropped by planes, and a lot of thick grey smoke. There was ash falling from the sky that day.
That night I didn’t sleep at all, I’m not sure why but I couldn’t. Finally it was time for Arthur to wake up to go to work, I sat with him while he got ready and left for work. I still wasn’t tired, the clock rolled around until 7 am, I figured I would stay up until I get a hold of my doctor and make an appointment to get some medications refilled, also to allow an release for my medication, I also had to get a hold of the vet so Trapper could get his vaccines and an appointment to be neutered. It turned out my doctor couldn’t get me in and also was leaving the practice so now I was wide awake, I called the vet and made Trappers appointment. I started to look online to see which doctors in my area were accepting new patients, I had found a doctor and called and made an appointment for a few days later.
I also checked on the fire status on the Alberta website and when I looked, the status was ‘under control.’ I looked at the time and it was already 1pm, I decided I should probably try and get some sleep, I put my phone on mute, plugged it in and went to try and fall asleep, which came much faster and easier than I had thought it would.
3pm The dog woke me up by barking, I got up before I let him out and went to the bathroom, let the dog out and checked me phone. Seventy-eight missed phone calls all from Arthur. I didn’t have my glasses on yet so I had thought I misread the number. Looked again, and yes — seventy-eight missed phone calls, I had no idea why there was so many but I didn’t think anything bad at all. I was about to call him and his number came through on my phone. I answered and I don’t remember the exact words at first but then he said “The city is burning down, you need to leave.” The words didn’t register, I said OK… OK??? That’s what I said, like it was no big deal. He was very panicky on the phone and he was explaining Ivite and her fiance Jay were going to pick Trapper and I up and to get what ever I could and leave.
Arthur explained to me that he wasn’t allowed to leave work because the highway coming South bound was closed, the fire that they had under control that morning took a turn for the worse. The temperature sky rocketed into the 30’s, humidity wasn’t helping the winds changed, the perfect storm for the fire to thrive and come alive.
I grabbed our laundry basket that I thought had clean clothes in it, turns out a few shirts and socks were in it, grabbed only a few more clothes, our passports and the Trappers leash. That was it, that’s all I grabbed because I thought it was going to be OK and we would just be back the next day.
Ivite and Jay picked us up, I’ve never met them before and I was already a huge mess from having a panic attack and being more scared than I ever thought possible. Trapper could tell something wasn’t right so he was nervous. We hopped in their truck and we left, I called my dad and explained and he hadn’t heard what was happening so he was trying to calm me down. I let him go because I didn’t know when I could charge my phone. Turns out Jay worked for the fire department, so I felt a bit more safe than I had moments before.
Driving towards safety was terrifying, there was flames on both sides of the roads, so many cars all moving perfectly in unison like there had been rehearsal days before. Once we were on the highway I called Arthur let him know the dog and I were safe and we were heading south towards the fire department near the airport, he still couldn’t leave but there was not as much panick and he seemed more at ease once he found out we were safe. As we were driving there were cars left abandoned in the middle of the highway on the grass and on sides, on the sides of the hills were neighborhoods were just feet away there was flames. They licked down and up the hills, I was in utter awe at what was happening, all I wanted to do was get somewhere safe and see Arthur. As we were coming right outside the city there was a Super 8 motel, it was completely up in flames, trucks next to it blown up.
Twenty minutes later where the highway keeps going south and the turn that let’s you onto Airport Road there were police cars guiding traffic making them go straight. They knew who Jay was and let us up, we had made it to safety! All I could do was just think I’m safe, the dog is safe, where is Arthur?
Ivite could have not been nicer towards me, she knew from Arthur I suffered from panic attacks and anxiety. We called Arthur and he was in the process of trying to get a truck to leave since they had just reopened the highway going south from his work.
I waited around, just keeping close to the truck, trying to calm down while talking to my dad on the phone, I had told him to please not let my mom know that the city had been evacuated where she would go into a frenzy and I worry about her health. He promised me that he would go to her house first thing the next day and explain everything and to make sure when she got the news she was going to be OK as much as possible.
Hours and hours went by, I became more calm, more at ease, it was dark and in the skyline you could see multiple pop ups of bright orange. Then the mood changed, all of a sudden 40 or more emergency vehicles came from all over Alberta, ranging from police, peace officers, water trucks, and fire trucks came into the yard and parked and started heading into the fire department. Towards the left there was a bus station and city buses with “EVACUATION” were dropping off people who didn’t drive and could not get out of the city. I called Arthur again for the millionth time trying to figure out where he was, he was making his way to us, traffic was still at a standstill even hours after I had left.
Something that made me smile, someone seen I had my dog and offered me food for him because I didn’t grab any or a bowl. Someone offered my dog food even though he had only brought so much. Trapper was still nervous, not knowing what was going on. He barely ate, but he was drinking plenty of water.
Jay had left to go down to the road block, he knew Arthur was coming and he had wanted to make sure the police knew he would be driving a work truck and was looking for me. A few minutes before midnight and Arthur had pulled up, he started to say that Jay had taken me up and Jay came right over and waved him through, I had been constantly watching the road to see if any cars or trucks that weren’t emergency vehicles were coming up the road. FINALLY, I seen a white truck, I knew it was Arthur! I waited for him to pull in and park, I ran to the truck with Trapper, I gave him a huge hug and didn’t want to let go all the while crying and telling him I was so glad to see him and that he was safe. Trapper had his turn and he was so excited to see him. It took Arthur which normally would have been 30 minutes or less 7 hours to get there.
I felt relieved, safer, more calm. I called my dad to let him know I was with Arthur and I would call him the next morning to let him know what was going on. Arthur and I decided not to try and leave that night to Edmonton were the highway was still jammed packed and he was dead tired, but we were going to spend the night in the truck than head to Edmonton the next morning. We stayed up for a bit listening to the news radio broadcasting from Edmonton about the fire, Arthur kept thanking Ivite and we all just talked and let things sink in.
I didn’t sleep that night at all, the day kept playing through my head, the dread I felt, the images replaying, why I had put my phone on mute, and I kept watching the skyline as new colours of orange would pop up still. At 6am I got out and stretched my legs, Arthur woke up not too long after and found me just sitting on the tail gate. We agreed we would leave at 7 30 am to go to Edmonton.
The firemen that night had “broken” into the grocery store and brought back bus loads of food, drinks, dog and cat food, medicine, and baby things. They would never be in trouble for getting the food because of the situation and they needed to keep their families that were there and themselves fed and hydrated. We grabbed a few things like crackers and dog food and we started to get ready to leave. We said goodbye to Ivite and Jay and we were on our way, not knowing what was going to happen next for us.
We finally arrived in Edmonton at 4 30pm, that drive usually takes 4 1/2 hours, on the way I called and made a reservation at a hotel that accepted dogs so we knew that when we got there we would have a place to go.
The second night there we had been informed indirectly that we did lose our house, I broke down, everything we owned was gone. I thought I should have grabbed more things. I lost things that are replaceable and things that aren’t.
We stayed a total of 4 nights before learning that no one was allowed back to the city as most homes were destroyed, and some neighborhoods completely gone.
We flew back to NB on the fifth day. As of now I’m still here waiting to go back, we are allowed back after a month but the people like me can’t go back because we don’t have a home.
These photos below are of my house, I’ve circled them in red so you can see our property. The photos are from multiple views.