EDMONTON – Julia Hebert has been living at the Edmonton Expo Centre with her toddlers since last Wednesday.
Five days ago, the Fort McMurray nurse fled a massive wildfire with two-and-a-half-year-old Dexter and 18-month-old Presley. Like so many others, Hebert did not know where she was going or when she’d be back home.
But the most difficult part was leaving her husband – a Fort McMurray firefighter – behind.
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“People don’t really realize how much they’re giving up to fight those fires up there,” Hebert said.
The young mother was visibly stressed and shaken by the whole ordeal.
“We’ve been doing this by ourselves for a week, but it’s OK.”
“It’s always hard,” Hebert said. “But as a firefighter, that’s what his job is and he wouldn’t be in any other place right now.”
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Hebert said her husband was born and raised in Fort McMurray and has been a firefighter for nine years now.
“In the firefighter/ nursing community, we’re all really close knit,” she said of the support she’s been receiving from others while at the Expo Centre. “Our family is still fighting the fires, our family is taking care of each other here, our kids are playing together – it’s just a unique community where everybody sticks together.”
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The day their neighbourhood was evacuated, Hebert and her husband were both called into work.
“So I stayed home with the kids – and he went to work- and we evacuated,” she said.
Since then, there have been telephone calls and updates from Dad.
“He misses his family,” Hebert said. “He was feeling a little discouraged when the flames were getting close to the house but after the fire left the city he felt a lot more better, more positive. He’s OK.”
She says the family will finally be reunited on Tuesday when Dad gets some much needed time off.
“I guess we’re just keeping it together so that the kids have a normal life – as normal as possible – and I just want to get support for them and us,” the young mother said.
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The Heberts did learn their home is still standing.
“We’ve got pictures – our house is still there and it’s not touched. We’re going to go back and sleep in our ‘Thomas bed’ one day soon,” Hebert told her son.
The family plans to return to the city one day.
“Fort McMurray is home,” Hebert said. “It’s where they (Hebert’s children) were born, it’s where we intended on living and raising our family.”
The mother and her children are flying to stay with family in Halifax later this week. Thanks to a donated flight, they’ll be with extended family while Dad stays in Fort McMurray to fight the fires.
Hebert said the family will remain in Halifax until her husband calls them back.
“It was panic,” she said. “It’s not panic anymore. It’s just kind of questioning what the future holds so it’s just a lot of uncertainty I guess.”
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