Although more than 1,220 kilometres separate Fort McMurray and Sooke, the two communities have a connection between friends, family – even those who commute to the oil sands community for work.
As flames from wildfires have consumed swaths of Fort McMurray and chased away most of the city’s residents — more than 88,000 people — in a panic-stricken last-minute mass evacuation that is already leaving emotional scars, there are Sooke residents who fear for their loved ones.
One such resident is Heather Cochrane, whose friend Mayghan Poirier was caught in the fire’s wrath.
“Naturally, I was worried for her well being along with everyone else up there, whether I knew them or not, you put yourself in their shoes,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine not knowing whether my home was there or not.”
Cochrane pointed out that seeing Poirier’s “check in safely from the Fort McMurray fire” feature on Facebook was a really handy tool in keeping the fear at bay.
Now, she’s more concerned as to what’s next for her friend.
“Will her first home she was about to sign the papers for still be there? Will her job or workplace still be there?”
Poirier lives in a suburb of Fort McMurray and has worked in administrative for Hertz Equipment Rental with Shell for four years.
“I feel like I’m in a post apocalyptic movie. It doesn’t feel real,” she said.
“Even as I drove through downtown and passed Beacon Hill and both were on fire, it felt like it must be fake because how on earth could it be real?”
Poirier is now safe and staying with friends in Wandering River, volunteering her time to help with the recovery effort. She is unsure when she will be allowed back home, but the good news is her home is still standing.
“The crazy thing is that I was in the process of buying a house. My first house. I was supposed to take possession on May 27,” she said, adding that the new home is still standing.
“I was supposed to be signing the papers at the bank on Friday. I don’t even know if the bank is still there.”
Poirier said that despite the vivid damage and destruction, there is still a lot left of Fort McMurray that isn’t shown in the mass media, with buildings intact and untouched by the flames.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
• A bottle drive will be held at 2088 Parkland Rd., in Sooke, this Saturday (May 14). The bottle drive runs from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For pick up or more information, please call 250-882-1773. proceeds to the Red Cross.
• The West Coast Grill will host a Beer and Burger fundraiser on Saturday, from noon to 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 with proceeds to the Red Cross.
• The Canadian Red Cross has set up a fund to help the residents of Fort McMurray, with the federal government matching all donations. Please go online to donate.redcross.ca.