A Fort McMurray funeral director still gets emotional talking about his escape from the burning city.
Andrew Montgomery, funeral director for Robert Anderson Funeral Home, said staff started their evacuation plans last Sunday as a massive wildfire crept closer to the city.
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“We could definitely see the smoke. It was quite close to the funeral home,” he said.
By Tuesday afternoon, staff decided it was time to flee but they had to make special preparations to bring along a deceased body. A funeral for the deceased had been scheduled at the funeral home.
“We have the vehicles required in order to make that transfer and we did. We were able to use one of our removal vehicles and simply bring the deceased down into Edmonton,” Montgomery said.
“There was one body and we had some cremated remains that we had had at the funeral home.”
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He said there wasn’t much time to really process what was happening.
“You just rely on your instincts and get things done. The cremated remains are safe and some pertinent paperwork as well.”
Montgomery choked up talking about why staff left Fort McMurray with the remains.
“We’re certainly used to taking care of people’s loved ones and this was no different,” he said.
“It’s still somebody’s mom, somebody’s dad. We’re not leaving anyone behind. That’s not something you can replace.”
The body is now being housed by a funeral home in Edmonton. A new funeral service is being planned in Edmonton, and Montgomery said a committal service will be held in Fort McMurray at a later date.
“We’ve definitely been in contact with the family. I can only imagine they’re relieved to know that they [don’t] have to worry about [it] for the time being,” Montgomery said.