Peter Pond newsletter :: May 2016 :: #47

Peter Pond Society editor Bill McDonald
Peter Pond Society editor Bill McDonald

Fort McMurray wildfires

Hello again.

By now we have probably all heard about the ferocious wildfires that have been raging in and around Fort McMurray, Alberta. And we all know the site where FM now stands, or what’s left of it, was where Peter Pond paddled through as the first white man in the area in 1778. FM recognizes this by having a Peter Pond Shopping Center and Peter Pond Hotel. So I have reached out to PPS members who are from FM or used to be to see what they could impart about their experiences or of those they know involved in the conflagration. One is Darin Zandee. Darin has moved to Calgary but his son was still living in FM and made it through on the one road out of FM to Darin’s house where he will be living until it’s safe to go back which may be weeks.

Here is Darin’s email sent Saturday:

Hi Bill,
My friends and family are safe now. Yesterday the fire was still in town along the Clearwater River and the Snye where the Peter Pond plaque is. They used helicopters to scoop water from the Clearwater River and successfully held the fire from reentering the downtown core. The main destruction to the town is in the area where at the beginning of the week the fire suddenly turned from a smoldering fire to the inferno with 50ft flames that sent everyone running for their lives. After that the firefighters have been doing an amazing job keeping the fire from entering the city saving over 80% of it. The risk now is the oil sands plants to the north and the communities to the south east.
More to come.
Darin

Then I wondered about Blair Jean but learned through Art Avery, a longtime resident of FM before retiring south to Edmonton, that Blair has been out in British Columbia for a while and expects to return in June. What he and other residents will find on returning appears bleak since most of the houses around the city of 80,000 are said to be gone.

Art has been most forthcoming in his response. Here is his email from Saturday:

Hi Bill:
Sorry it took a couple of days to get back to you. Yes I am in contact with several of the evacuees. Two of my close friends live up the Clearwater River on the opposite side to Fort McMurray. They both lost their homes and are presently figuring out how they can get back in to assess the damage. As it outside of the Fort McMurray limits, they are basically on their own. Within the limits, nobody will be allowed back in until all the utility services (gas, water & power) have been checked out and that could take several weeks.

Refugees have been very well looked after. Another friend of our got out through the inferno and is in an apartment in Edmonton. Thursday evening five of them went to Moxies Restaurant for supper. They ordered snacks and a meal and Gerry ordered a beer. At the end of the supper, they asked for their bill, they were charged for Gerry’s beer and that is all. We are hearing many stories like this. Hotels are reducing their charge to as low as $50.00 per night. Some have given the first 3 nights free. No accommodation facility is is refusing refugees with pets. Every Town around Alberta is welcoming refugees. Places are set up with personal items, baby diapers, clothing from the new born to adult. Alberta has always been a giving Province and it is outdoing anything that has been done before. The Province has come up with $1,250. per adult and $500. per child for every refugee that has registered with the Red Cross. This is to help them get the necessities of life as most got out with little more than their clothes on their back. The Red Cross has received millions in donations to help the cause.
I will forward a couple of the more interesting e-mails that I got.

Regards
Art

Here is a you tube website Art sent that graphically shows cars passing huge flames licking from the woods and sparks flying as people frantically drive to get away:

And finally here is a series of news stories about the fire that features one about a 16-year-old girl who calmly rode her horse, when there was no room for him in the van, some miles out of town to safely hook up with her family and room in a friend’s van for the horse.

There you have it PPSers, news out of Peter Pond country.

Au revoir,
Bill