Monday, May 23, 2016

Fort McMurray Fire Photos

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my ordeal with being caught up in the evacuation from Fort McMurray.  It wasn't until this evening however that I was finally able to get some of the photos I managed to take posted to the blog.  By now, I'm sure you've seen tons of video and stills in the media.  At the risk of simply adding more to the mix, here are a few photos from one person's experience.

This was the sky to the west from my back deck around mid-afternoon.

By the time the mandatory evacuation order was issued, this was the view from my front door.

Another photo taken from my back deck looking east.

Another westerly view.  At this point I was starting to think that joining the mass exodus from town might be a very good thing in terms of self-preservation.

More photos from around my house.  At the time I had no idea where this smoke was coming from but thinking back I'm pretty sure that this was coming mainly from the river valley.  I had no idea how far away the fire was or even what was burning.  Having the television news on in the background broadcasting about the fires gave the me a pretty surreal feeling.

This was the last photo I was able to take of my street after Tony and I had the truck gassed up and we had returned for a couple of things we had forgotten in the rush to get Drifter in her carrier and through a few bags in the back of the truck.  I had no idea if that glow was just from the sun shining through the smoke and cloud as it began to sink toward the horizon or if nearby houses were actually on fire but at this point I honestly thought the neighbourhood was in serious jeopardy.  I later learned that what was likely burning as a forested area behind the street directly behind my street.  It's an area I know well from my bird-watching and indeed I had only gone over there about a week before the evacuation.    I know it will look very different to me once I return.

What I honestly thought would be the last photo of my house.  Looking at it now, I do have to admit its one of the better ones I have taken.  The background colours are pretty interesting.  Too bad my house had to be under threat of burning down in order for me to get such a background.

Expecting to be heading northward, I was surprised to reach Highway 63 and find us re-directed southbound.

A couple photos heading past Abasand hill.  It didn't look nearly as dramatic when we passed it as some of the photos I was to see later in the news but the smoke was very thick and disorienting.

Approaching the Hospital Street overpass that connects the downtown to the Abasand area.

Heading up Beacon Hill.  Once we got out of the valley, the sky did start to clear noticeably.  The smoke in the distance is likely from the Beacon Hill neighbourhood and a nearby trailer park.

If you heard of a hotel burning down during the fire, well this was it.  Not too much remained of the Super 8 by the time we passed by, driving southbound in the northbound lanes at this point.  The building looked like it had been struck by a very powerful bomb.

While the traffic looks a bit like a scene out of a zombie apocalypse, for the most part people drove sensibly and I didn't really feel it was overly chaotic.  Frankly, up until the Thickwood and Timberlea overpasses were built to greatly improve traffic flow, I felt very much as if I was driving to work on a morning 3 or 4 years ago....other than all the smoke and the city burning down behind us, that is.

At this point there was a lull in my photo-taking since I obviously had more pressing things I on my mind.  I did manage to take a couple of photos late the following day (May 4) shortly before we were again evacuated out of the tiny community of Anzac.

After leaving Anzac, Tony and I got as far as Conklin along Highway 881 before spending the night in the truck while waiting for the gas station to open.  We set out that morning (May 5) and arrived at the Bold Centre in Lac La Biche.  As I've mentioned in earlier posts, the outpouring of support and the volunteer spirit I witnessed were simply overwhelming.

The Bold Centre is an amazing facility to see in such a small community and it was clear that the people there took great pride in it.

A scene I was to witness countless times as people showed up continuously throughout the 3 days I was there with all sorts of supplies for evacuees.

I had been hoping to get a photo of some chalk greetings just outside the Bold Centre.  I had hoped to move the pylon for a clearer shot until I saw this little guy jump in.  It wasn't until a couple days later when I was looking back at my photos on my camera that I realized he had a piece of chalk in his hand and was re-tracing the letters on the ground.

....and Fort McMurray loves you right back Lac La Biche.

It took a couple of days for Drifter to relax a bit.  I could tell by her flattened ears here that she was still getting used to her surroundings but she was definitely a trooper through the entire ordeal.  By the end of the second day she was showing a lot of her regular behaviours and seemed much more relaxed.

After leaving Lac La Biche, I wound up at my grandmother's in Spruce Grove.  I had hoped to be back to work by now but mother nature has had other ideas in the meantime.  Earlier in the day I left for Grande Prairie where I find myself keeping a eye on events and very much looking forward to returning home in the near future.

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