After visiting her children and grandchildren in Fort McMurray in the aftermath of May’s wildfire that destroyed 2,000 homes and structures, Cariboo Regional District director Joan Sorley said she defies anybody to drive into the area without crying.
“It is really hard to describe what we saw,” Sorley told the Tribune. “You can see all the photos in the world and I guess it kind of prepares you, but when you see it you realize that the fire surrounded the entire city.”
There is Boreal forest all around the city, and it’s all black, she added.
“There’s been enough time now that the grass has grown back and it looks almost unnatural because it is so green with extra nutrients from all the ash. It’s this bright bright green underneath all these blackened trees.”
Sorley’s children’s homes were spared, but she saw entire neighborhoods where there was nothing left.
“It is all ruin, coated with this white stuff, so that looks a little different than when a house burns down and what’s left is all black. It’s kind of ghostly.”
Her family members were allowed to return right after the ban was lifted, but some of their work places were impacted.
Her daughter teaches at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, where the provincial government set up some offices in the aftermath of the fire.
Sorley’s daughter isn’t certain as to when she will be able to return to her job.
“Our grandson is the meat manager at Save-On-Foods there and the store was destroyed — not burnt — but destroyed because they had no power for a month,” Sorley said.
Sorley’s son was evacuated from his workplace in the oil patch three times, but he’s back at work now.
While they were in Fort McMurray, Sorley and her husband Vince camped.
Right beside their campsite was a burnt out area and when it was really damp they could smell the burnt forest.
“You get used to it, but it is still so shocking,” she said.
There were many signs welcoming the residents home and the firefighters were on the overpass welcoming them 24 hours a day.
Sorley visited a fire hall and made a thankful mother speech to the firefighters for saving her family.
“It’s really unbelievable, when you look at it, that the whole town isn’t gone,” she added.