Fleeing the Fort McMurray Wildfire [Our Evacuation “Tail”]

PicMonkey Collage

May 3, 2016
Our home, the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta, an approximate 90,000 people, are under a mandatory evacuation. We all had to leave, with the exception to those who were fighting this raging beast and leading us all to safety. This day will be forever burned into my memory.

13083365_10153528691563531_6566005401615571325_nI was 8 months pregnant at the time working at my desk job, when I got a text message from my husband who just finished hockey. In the message was a photo of the dark and smoky sky overlooking the area of town in which we reside. A few days prior to the mandatory evacuation, my stepson and I could hear the helicopters flying overhead, so we went for a walk down one of the trails behind our house that overlooked the Horse River (this photo taken as we watched the helicopters dump water onto the fire). The morning of the evacuation, the sky was beautiful and not a single puff of smoke was to be seen. That quickly escalated. Around 2pm, I heard on the radio that for the areas of Abasand, Beacon Hill & Grayling Terrace were now on a mandatory evacuation. I got up from my desk, grabbed my keys and rushed home. My husband was already on his way to grab our dog Rolo and some of the things we had packed up when the fire broke out a few days prior, including our 72 hour emergency kit (that was only made the night before the evacuation!)

In-case of a possible evacuation,
consider packing the following;
• Pet Food, Medication & ID’s
• SIN Card & Driver’s License
• Credit/Bank Cards
• Vehicle Title & Land Title
• Marriage & Birth Certificates
• Health Card & Passport
• Insurance Policy & Number
• Home Inventory List & Photos
• Prescription Medication
• Important Documents
• Valuable Jewelry
• Clothing (at least 1 weeks worth)
• Non Perishable Food & Bottled Water
• First Aid Kit

I made it home after some traffic, stayed 10 minutes to grab a few things and then we decided it was time to make our way South to safety. This was around 2:45pm (1st Photo in banner: The sky behind our house as we left). The roads were chaotic; people were driving with absolutely no rules and no patience. (2nd & 3rd photo in banner: bumper to bumper traffic, we were even instructed to drive down the wrong side of the road to get out of our area). We all had one thing in mind, GET OUT!

13103444_729208507221399_3085440125693339037_nMy husband’s goal was to get us all out of Fort McMurray safely (he drove in front of us in our truck as Rolo and I followed behind in the suv). My main goal was to stay calm & stress free, because I didn't want any stress to induce labor! Phone lines were jammed up, so there was no way to talk this thing through with my husband. How did I stay stress free when I was fleeing for my safety, possibly never seeing my home and contents inside again, while things around me are going up in flames and driving past things that have already burnt to the ground? (4th photo in banner: thick smoke all around). All I had to do was look in my rear view mirror for reassurance. I owe my sanity to my furry best friend, Rolo, who knew I needed him the most as we made this drive to safety. Every few seconds I would look back in my mirror and see his smiling face sitting up in back of my SUV (as pictured). Rolo is a retired pet therapy dog and I sure put him to good use during evacuation. I truly believe that animals possess magical powers that can heal us, make us happy and in my case, calm us. As soon as we made it through the smoke, I let out a big sigh of relief and un-clenched my hands that were gripping my steering wheel (5th Photo in banner: leaving the big wall of smoke behind us, it literally was a thick wall!)

Staying Calm;
• Practice Breathing Exercises;
Inhale through nose 5 seconds, Hold for 2 seconds,
Exhale through mouth for 5 seconds, repeat
• Do some car karaoke and sing along to the radio/CD
• Take your tongue away from the roof of your mouth
(I learned this in yoga class!)
• Think Positively
• Crank your tunes
• Clear your mind

At 6:00pm we arrived at our temporary destination 2 hours South of town only to stay two days before making the decision that we needed to be near a hospital. We made our way to our next temporary location - my mom & step dads house in my home province of British Columbia. This is where we would be having our daughter. May 31, 2016 – Rolo’s new sister, Tenley made her entrance into this world. Healthy & on time. Meet Tenley --> Click Here

I want to give a sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart to every single person around the world who joined in to help my amazing community, including my family. Although we are still not back in our home (due to living in one of the restricted areas) we are so happy to be back in Fort McMurray!  We are FORT MCMURRAY STRONG.  To follow the rest of our journey, check us out on our social media pages listed below.

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Positively Expert: Kimberley Matchem

Kimberley has used her passion for animals, being a shelter animal advocate & dog mom to launch her own pet blog to inspire others looking to adopt through real life stories and adventures. It also gives an inside look into her life as a dog mom to former shelter dog, Rolo.


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