Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Notley to Greet Evacuees; Recalls Early Days of Wildfire

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Notley to Greet Evacuees; Recalls Early Days of Wildfire

Article excerpt

Alberta premier recalls early days of wildfire

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EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Rachel Notley plans to be in Fort McMurray on Wednesday to help residents turn the page on a devastating wildfire and says she will carry with her vivid memories of the early days of the disaster.

Scenes of families in trucks and cars reduced to a crawl as they tried to escape through curtains of flame below a sky raining embers.

The day she went to the region and the wildfire literally chased her around.

The tour of destroyed neighbourhoods reduced to grey expanses of soot.

It was the small things that jumped out.

"I hadn't realized ... you go to a place where there was a house and what do you see on the ground? Nails. Piles and piles of nails," said Notley in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"Because that's what's left when everything burns to the ground. Just nails everywhere."

It has been a month since a roaring wildfire raced through Fort McMurray and cut the city in two, forcing the entire population of more than 80,000 to flee.

Notley recalled the first day, May 3, was focused on getting people out and nothing more.

She said she was amazed to see families in cars inch their way past flames and not break down into mad panic.

"I remember talking to a friend of mine. I was just telling her about it and she started breaking into tears, imagining that she was there with a child trying to get out of town," said Notley.

"It's hard to imagine how frightening it must have been for these families to have your kids in the car and be driving down that road and to be told that you can't go any faster than 25 kilometres an hour when you're seeing flames coming at you."

A day later, Notley flew to Fort McMurray to see what the province was up against and looked down on a city shrouded by "a mountain of smoke."

She landed at the operations centre at the airport just as the fire forced staff there to head south to the hamlet of Anzac.

Notley flew to Anzac under a blue sky, met and chatted with people, and suddenly everyone was on the run again. …

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