After a very long day yesterday involving travel by plane, taxi, bus and van, I finally made it back to the house late last night. Before getting back up to my neighbourhood, I was dropped off by the bus at a welcome centre at the Oil Sands Discovery Centre, where a welcome centre had been set up returnees. Here I was able to pick up a bag of groceries as well as some cleaning supplies which I was to discover would be put to good use.
An inspection of the outside of my home showed no fire damage whatsoever other than some superficial blackening of my front yard trees from the smoke. As expected, I was greeted by quite the strong odour once I unlocked my door and stepped inside. I knew where the culprit lay right away as I had forgotten to get rid of some food on the stove top before evacuating. A full roast had been sitting giving off it's special perfume over the course of the past 33 days and a pot of boiled potatoes had been reduced to a think gooey sludge. I have a pretty strong stomach but even this putrid mess was a challenge. I opened every window that I could and by this morning I noticed a pretty big difference.
Should I or shouldn't I? I was debating with myself during the ride up whether or not I would be brave (or foolish) enough to open my fridge since I had heard that parts of my neighbourhood had managed to keep power for most of the time we were evacuated. In any event, because I was feeling quite tired after the 18 hours it took me to get back (that was fun) I opened the fridge without really thinking to find that it wasn't as bad as I feared and so first thing this morning I emptied out the fridge as well as the freezer which was also surprisingly tame. Luckily the day of the evacuation was the last work day of the shift for me and a couple of my tenants so there wasn't a lot of food left sitting.
I was up bright and early this morning to set to work cleaning and found the house had aired out pretty nicely over night. The kitchen cleaned up pretty good and I took all the rotting food and got it into the garbage can where it now sits at the end of my driveway. After getting a load of dishes in to the dish washer, I set to cutting the grass which now resembled a small forest. Even with a small lawn it still took me the better part of an hour to cut both the back and the front. A utility van from the gas company passed by so I was able to get my pilot light relit for the furnace and now have the luxury of hot water again.
Late in the morning I decided to take a walk and clear my head. A few pathways I normally take were closed so I went instead to see where the fire had started to spread up the hill from the water plant and the golf course after it had jumped the river.
The photos below were taken about 5 minutes from my street. The first photo looks pretty normal enough and really could have been taken on any given day.
The next two photos show much more of a contrast. This was only a few feet from the road and while it looks pretty stark, there were plenty of areas that looked perfectly normal and I could hear an entire chorus of robins and chickadees singing away as if it a completely normal day. I should add too that I didn't notice much in terms of a burnt smell even at this distance. Depending on the direction and strength of the wind, you could definitely notice a slight smell of rotting garbage.
I'm not sure how many times I've walked by this green space in the course of the last six years but it separates a stand of trees with some burn out from the backs of the houses on the street right behind my street. If it wasn't for this little oasis I just may have been returning to a very different scene on my street.
I'm not quite sure yet when I'll be back to work since I haven't heard anything but I expect to be back soon. I'd like to be able to get out more in the coming days and check on some of the areas I usually hike and birdwatch in to see the extent of the damage. For now though its time to relax a bit and breath a sigh of relief. To say that the past 4 weeks have been a wee bit stressful at times would be very accurate and this whole experience has left me feeling very grateful for what I have.