Many families that fled Fort McMurray last week due to the horrific wildfires have landed in Central Alberta.
Stephan Anstey, Jen Edwards, Scott Anstey and Brandon Champagne, all from Fort McMurray, have found refuge in Blackfalds with friends and anxiously await to hear word about when they can return home.
By doing some searching on Google Images, they know that their homes are still standing – however, what they don’t know at this point is what the state of their homes are in – whether or not their homes have smoke or heat damage.
The group has been in Blackfalds since last Wednesday after fleeing the Fort McMurray community last Tuesday.
“We literally drove right through the flames,” said Scott. “Me and Brandon stopped as we got through Beacon Hill which is the last hill when you leave Fort Mac going south, and pulled over and we were thinking we can’t even turn around to go get clothes or nothing. So we had to leave and one of the gas stations at the top of the hill just as we went through exploded. We looked back into the city and all you could see was flames and smoke.
“I’m lucky to be alive.”
Brandon said it was like a scene right out of the movies.
“You watch all those movies like Armageddon and you think that is not how it would happen, but that’s exactly what happened. It’s nuts,” said Brandon.
Jen added even though they are all safe, images are still haunting.
“You don’t sleep now because you’re thinking and you live on facebook trying to see if something new comes up,” she said. “You’re constantly looking.”
As for the outpouring of support Albertans have shown, they all agreed it is overwhelming.
“Since we’ve gotten here people have been dropping off money donations and meals and groceries,” said Jen.
They do not know when they will be able to return home but they are hopeful they will learn more later this week.
Meanwhile, fire conditions remain extreme in the province. As of earlier this week the Fort McMurray wildfire had grown to about 204,000 hectares and is anticipated to continue to grow as it moves closer to the Saskatchewan border. A media tour on Monday in the city showed about 10-15% of infrastructure was destroyed with about 85% of the buildings in Fort McMurray saved.