Inspired by the actions of a friend who loaded his car up with supplies, pet food, and gas and drove to Wandering River to help evacuees from Canada’s worst natural disaster. I could no longer sit and watch this crisis unfold and not do something to help. I had several firefighter friends who where fighting this beast at the end of the nozzle and felt this obligation to get up there and help.
Inspired, I packed up my own truck the next day with pet food from the good people at Champion Pet Foods and head north. Along the way I passed several ranchers returning with horse trailers that had signs reading “Free Fuel”, “Food”, “Water” to anyone who needed it. It was hard not to feel Alberta pride, where your neighbours become your family, your resources, and your rescue in times of crisis.
I picked up my long time friend and drove north, linking up with the first civilian relief effort to try and get this pet food to 70,000 evacuees trapped on the north side of Ft McMurray.
It’s amazing how fast people communicated a need in the fire zone and how fast I was able to be in touch with people. Social media played such a huge role in this. It’s so amazing to me how fast and with how much passion and urgency everyone moved to make things happen.
Stopping in Wandering River to confirm our link up we spotted another truck full of food. I was wearing the unofficial “Dirty Patricia” regimental hoodie and approached the driver who immediately asked me what battalion I was with I stated 3rd and he said, “me too brother. Are you waiting for this Barb”, I confirmed this and off we went North on 63 towards the beast.
We got within 160km (100 Miles) of Ft Mac and you could see the wall of smoke which was enormous with a giant supercell of cloud mixed smoke above it.
Within 100km (55 miles) we could smell the smoke. I had been in touch with the supply runners and they where on the north side held up because the fire had crossed the highway the wind was gusting and the fire was incredibly unpredictable.
After being stopped at storm mountain road We where aloud to get all the way up to Highway 881 and linked up with the relief team. In short order the police left the scene here and moved east on 881 at speed, seconds after 6-7 cop cars rolled past us and informed us to fall back to Stony mountain road. The fire had started to grow rapidly and was becoming incredibly unpredictable.
We stayed back at stony mountain road and watched this massive fire from a distance. In awe we saw water bombers attack this beast and saw smoke combine with cloud in the upper atmosphere. This combination created a supercell so massive and intimidating it’s refered to a heaven smoke, I would liken it more to a image of fury. I have lived on the praires in Alberta for a large part of my life and have seen tornados and some nasty storms. I have never seen cloud with such a beautify menacing appearance.
Darkness grew near so we retreated to Wandering River. We stopped at the petro Canada to figure out a plan and found out the Canada North camp was taking donations so off we went. About to leave, a young man maybe a day over 17 asked us where he could drop off donations. It’s amazing that this kid packed up his car and headed north driving 500 km (300 miles). With diapers, wipes, water, food, fuel, clothes and even stuffed animals. The character of this young man is exemplary. We had him follow us and off to Canada North Wandering River we went. The young man left his donations with us and then drove home to work in the morning.
Arriving here more than 18 hours after Ihad left my house and drove over 700km ( 500 miles) I was exhausted and hungry. The camp with no hesitation gave us a room, food and salvation
I went to bed that night exhausted and hopeful we could get out supplies to someone who would need them in th morning.