Ruth Hoehne has hardly slept a wink since Tuesday afternoon when a neighbour happened to ask her how her sisters in Fort McMurray were doing.
Until that moment she didn’t have a clue that fire was ripping through the community that she called home for 23 years.
She was busy gardening and bird watching, not watching television.
But since Tuesday Ruth has been glued to the television and her cell phone trying to make sure her family and friends are safe.
Ruth and her husband, Randy, are relative newcomers to the lakecity from Fort McMurray where Randy was born and they raised their daughters Samantha and Jessica.
Randy moved to Williams Lake four years ago to work for Gibraltar Mine and Ruth joined him a year later with their daughters.
While Randy doesn’t have any family living in Fort McMurray today, Ruth says at least 60 of her close and extended family members live in and around the city, including two sisters and a brother, and their children and grandchildren.
As of Friday evening Ruth was able to confirm that her sisters, brother and their families were safe, but so far as they know her nephew, Josh, and his family and another couple close to her family have lost their homes to the fire.
Many of Ruth’s family members and friends are staying with another sister in Boyle, a small town three hours south of Fort McMurray.
“They just said our doors are open and let everyone come in,” Ruth said.
Other family members have made it to Edmonton and as far away as Ottawa and Newfoundland.
She said one sister travelling with her daughter and grandchildren was among the escapees who ran out of gas 50 miles out of Fort McMurray, but fortunately they were able to park the car by the road and climb into her husband’s truck that was following them.
“Please keep our first responders and people of Fort McMurray in your prayers and please donate to the Red Cross,” Ruth said as she shares some of the stories and pictures coming to her cell phone from family and friends about their harrowing escapes.
Ruth said her nephew Tyler Fawcett was interviewed on CBC and by a media outlet in Istanbul, Turkey about the escape he made with his wife Flaxee.
Tyler and Flaxee have been married just over a year, so Ruth said Flaxee took her wedding dress, wedding photos, their dog and some water with her when she left their house to pick up Tyler who was standed downtown. Part way there she said Flaxee had to abandon the vehicle, her wedding dress and photos, and run 12 blocks with their dog and some water to meet up with Tyler who had found another ride out with his sister and family.
Ruth was also moved by the story of how her good friends Dave Oger, a fire fighter, and his wife Jennifer, an X-ray technician at the hospital were separated from each other, their children, and their three dogs during the evacuation.
The Fawcett and Oger stories will follow in separate articles.