The impact of the fires raging in and around Fort McMurray is being felt by all Alberta residents.
“I think in a matter of four hours, everything changed from being scary to everyone’s worst nightmare,” says Sharon Canning, a twenty-five year resident of Fort McMurray.
READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire response now in ‘Phase 2’: officials
Canning and her family had less than 15 minutes to evacuate their home in Fort McMurray on Tuesday night, driving north through thick and choking smoke to make it to a bunk house in Fort MacKay. The Canning family has no time frame as to when they will be able to retune home, and for the time being they will stay with family in Lethbridge.
“It’s very scary living in that moment, it was almost surreal,” Canning says. “It was like you know, ‘this isn’t happening to us, I’m not here watching my city, my home, burn.’”
Forest fires in and around the northern city continue to grow, and become increasingly difficult to fight.
Hundreds of firefighters from across Alberta, including Willow Creek fire Chief Travis Coleman, have been called to action to help Fort McMurray, and their fellow firefighters.
“Looking around, and just seeing black smoke in all these different spots, it was unreal to think how many fires were popping up around the city,” says fire Chief Travis Coleman.
Coleman said he was humbled by the firefighters he was on the ground with.
READ MORE: Where Fort McMurray fire evacuees can get help and information
“Firefighters in Fort McMurray and surrounding area that had lost their whole homes… packed up their wife and kids, sent them on the evacuation and they’ve been fighting fires.”
Coleman says the fires are unlike anything he, and his team from southern Alberta had ever seen.
“I hope to never see something like this, because it is totally devastating for the residents of Fort McMurray,” Coleman says. “To see what they had to go through, it was surreal, it was hard to believe it was almost like a movie.”
Although currently displaced, Sharon Canning and her family take some comfort in the fact that footage from a neighbour’s security camera shows that their house is still standing.
“It’s definitely going to be a long road ahead of us,” Canning said “We’ll get through it, we’re strong, that’s the new slogan now, we’re Fort McMurray strong.”