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Living hour by hour


EDMONTON, ALTA. - Payson Saunders is living hour by hour in a surreal world.

“There were so many people on the roads. People were abandoning cars because they ran out of gas. All the gas stations along the way were running out of fuel. We waited about two hours for fuel, and then you’re standing in line to pay, listening to people talk about losing their homes.

“I can’t even put words to it.”

Faced with evacuation, it took Saunders and her boyfriend 10 hours to reach Edmonton, double the usual time.

The Truro native had been living in Thickwood, Fort McMurray, for the past three years and doesn’t know if her home is still standing.

“There’s a good chance it is standing right now, and we hope for that,” said Saunders, while staying with a friend, another Truro native, in Edmonton. “Whether I can say that tomorrow, I don't know.”

A raging wildfire that started Sunday forced the evacuation of all residents in Fort McMurray.

“We have been told one house on our street was destroyed, but we don’t know if it was ours. We can only hold on hour to hour.”

Since the wildfire started, Saunders said she really didn’t take it too seriously, however things started to change Tuesday when the fire jumped a river and started approaching her home. She was home sick, and a friend called to tell her she may want to pack a bag. But it wasn’t until she was under a voluntary evacuation order – which changed to mandatory an hour later – that she started to think things were serious.

“It became very real,” she said. “By that time, there was a lot more smoke and a lot more helicopter activity. My boyfriend and I packed what we could – we didn’t know what we should or shouldn’t take – so we packed as much as we could, and our dog.”

Outside, she said, traffic was gridlocked with everyone trying to escape the oncoming flames.

“You saw everything – fire trucks driving on the sidewalk and the wrong side of the road. It took an hour to drive what normally takes less than five minutes. Meanwhile, you’re watching homes burn and neighbourhoods burn. People are walking around in masks. It was horrific, really.”

Saunders and her boyfriend began heading north, only to reach a roadblock and have to make a U-turn.

“We were driving by houses and neighbourhoods that once stood that were no longer there. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to see.”

 

rtetanish@trurodaily.com

Twitter: @TDNRaissa

“There were so many people on the roads. People were abandoning cars because they ran out of gas. All the gas stations along the way were running out of fuel. We waited about two hours for fuel, and then you’re standing in line to pay, listening to people talk about losing their homes.

“I can’t even put words to it.”

Faced with evacuation, it took Saunders and her boyfriend 10 hours to reach Edmonton, double the usual time.

The Truro native had been living in Thickwood, Fort McMurray, for the past three years and doesn’t know if her home is still standing.

“There’s a good chance it is standing right now, and we hope for that,” said Saunders, while staying with a friend, another Truro native, in Edmonton. “Whether I can say that tomorrow, I don't know.”

A raging wildfire that started Sunday forced the evacuation of all residents in Fort McMurray.

“We have been told one house on our street was destroyed, but we don’t know if it was ours. We can only hold on hour to hour.”

Since the wildfire started, Saunders said she really didn’t take it too seriously, however things started to change Tuesday when the fire jumped a river and started approaching her home. She was home sick, and a friend called to tell her she may want to pack a bag. But it wasn’t until she was under a voluntary evacuation order – which changed to mandatory an hour later – that she started to think things were serious.

“It became very real,” she said. “By that time, there was a lot more smoke and a lot more helicopter activity. My boyfriend and I packed what we could – we didn’t know what we should or shouldn’t take – so we packed as much as we could, and our dog.”

Outside, she said, traffic was gridlocked with everyone trying to escape the oncoming flames.

“You saw everything – fire trucks driving on the sidewalk and the wrong side of the road. It took an hour to drive what normally takes less than five minutes. Meanwhile, you’re watching homes burn and neighbourhoods burn. People are walking around in masks. It was horrific, really.”

Saunders and her boyfriend began heading north, only to reach a roadblock and have to make a U-turn.

“We were driving by houses and neighbourhoods that once stood that were no longer there. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to see.”

 

rtetanish@trurodaily.com

Twitter: @TDNRaissa

Truro’s Payson Saunders and her boyfriend were evacuated from their Thickwood home in Fort McMurray on Tuesday due to a raging wildfire. Traffic in the area was gridlocked as everyone was leaving at the same time.

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