My Experience During the Fort McMurray Fire of 2016

My Experience During the Fort McMurray Fire of 2016

I live in Calgary and I was working at Suncor’s upgrading plant north of Fort McMurray.

May 1st started out like any other day for me. I got my giant work bin ready. Filled it with all the work gear I would need for my 11-day shift. I gave my fiancé Samantha a kiss and said goodbye and headed out on my bimonthly 8-hour drive to northern Alberta.

The drive was normal for most of the drive. That is until I noticed smoke on the horizon. It wasn’t lots of smoke nor was there any visible flames, so I thought nothing of it as this area is prone to forest fires.

I started taking a few pictures (1,2,3) and kept driving only the smoke was starting to really thicken. By the time I got to Fort McMurray, I noticed water bomber airplanes flying close to the city which was unusual to see.

Fort Mac FireFort Mac Firefort-mac-fire-02

I hadn’t received a phone call or email from my employer saying to stay home or that there was any danger to the city or plant so I kept driving to my final destination, Borealis lodge.

I arrived at the lodge and in my normal routine stayed up till the early morning and slept all day as I work the night shift for the maintenance shutdown which was just wrapping up.

I woke up (May 2nd) and went down for breakfast (everyone else eats supper at this time) and noticed some people were grouped together talking about a fire that had spread fast and neared the city now. I ate, grabbed a bag lunch and went to catch my bus which takes the workers to site.

I noticed more and more people were talking about this fire so I started to inquire what they were talking about as I was asleep for most of the day. I was hearing that most of the workers were sent home because the fire was so close to the city people might not make it out and down the only highway out of the area. I also heard that the entire community and a number of businesses were on fire.

I went to work and noticed there were no workers where there usually are workers.

I asked what was happening and was told the fire had spread faster overnight because of the high winds.

I asked if we were getting sent home and was told no. So I went to work my shift as normal and could visually see the smoke in the air by this point though there was no danger of the fire to the plant.

Fort Mac Fire

After my shift, I went back to the lodge to eat and go to bed. My phone was blowing up from friends and family asking if I was ok and what was going on.

I assured everyone It wasn’t as bad as what they think, but I was north of the fire and didn’t know what was going on to the south.

Ryan Redsky
Founder of Up North Lifestyle Apparel