‘From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Coronation!’

A view of the Fort McMurray fire from evacuee, Jade Hiscock’s home on Tues., May 3.  ECA Review/Submitted

The Hwy #63 turn off which Hiscock was redirected from due to a fire that compromised the integrity of the road. ECA Review/Sumbitted

Fort McMurray evacuee, Jade Hiscock and her seven year-old daughter escaped with only their two dogs and each a grocery bag full of clothes, she said during an interview with the ECA Review on Thur. May 12 having arrived just three days earlier.

“I was petrified, I think I have run out of tears because I have cried so much,” she continued.

“I was in Coronation last summer visiting my step-brother, Will Noseworthy and his family, and loved it,” she replied with asked why she came to Coronation.

Hiscock first left her Gregire (a suburb of Fort McMurray) home on Sun., May 1 at 11:30 p.m. following a mandatory evacuation for her area issued by the Fort McMurray mayor.

Police had been stationed on every other block and the radio had 20 minute interval updates.

She packed up her daughter, her two dogs and a bag of clothes and went to stay with a family member on the other side of town where the fires had not yet become problematic.

By 3:30 a.m. that same night the mayor apologized on behalf of the municipality for overreacting and told residents they could return to their homes.

Hiscock returned home and opted to keep her daughter home from school both Monday and Tuesday due to the fact that her daughter suffers from severe asthma.

Hiscock, however, did not spend long in her home before a second mandatory evacuation was issued.

Once again she  packed up the crew, along with her emergency bag headed towards Hwy #63, which she said was a five minute drive from her home.

However upon being only three car lengths away from the turn off, the police announced that the integrity of Hwy #63 had been compromised due to a fire had that already reached the other side of the southbound highway.

She was then redirected to Hwy #69, which Hiscock claimed is a dead-end road that only leads to the airport.

She spent the next several hours, along with countless other vehicles in a holding pattern while fire crews attacked the flames on the main southbound traffic artery.

Four and a half hours later this fire had been contained and Hiscock was finally heading out of town alongside thousands of other evacuees.

My breaking point

During this time, Hiscock said she was “petrified”.  She said you could “feel the heat of the fire, see the flames and couldn’t even turn on the air conditioning because all the car would suck in was hot air”.

Eighteen of her family members met on Hwy #881 near the Anzac shelter to take a head count and form a convoy as they drove to Gibbons, Ab.

Hiscock said her breaking point came while stuck out on the highway.  “There were people broke down everywhere, families on the side of the road with their pets, abandoned vehicles, it was like a scene from a movie”.

Her gas tank reading zero, an elderly dog having seizures that she thought would die while in their car, the slow moving traffic and a little girl crying and scared was not only stressful but emotionally exhausting, she shared.

At the moment, as far as she knows, due to the lack of updated information being provided to residents of “Fort Mac”, her home is still standing. She thinks in part to a stubborn elderly gentlemen in her neighbourhood who refused to leave and continued to spray his, and nearby yards, with water from his garden hose – that along with a bit of good luck from the changing winds.

Hiscock, however has learned of many homes which have been looted and robbed and shared her frustration by not only the inconsistent and out-dated information that is being provided to the public on the situation but the fact that she doesn’t understand why the military hasn’t been allowed to go in and help.

As far as she has heard, all but 30 people who are in Fort Mac to deal with the fires are on the front lines.

Those additional 30 people are the only ones left to protect the homes that are still standing from vandalism and robbery.

The silver-lining in the midst of the grey, smoky clouds in her life, aside from the fact that her family is safe (although she expressed a great deal of guilt over having left their fish behind) despite being told that it may not be for another four to eight weeks before they can return home, and if then it may be only to gather valuables and leave, has been the warm, overwhelming welcome from Coronation.

Hiscock told the ECA Review, “My daughter Hailey and I would like to thank the beautiful  Town of Coronation for opening their hearts, along with donating items to us in our time of need.  Words cannot express how thankful we are.

“I would also like to thank the school for making Hailey feel at ease during a very difficult time.  Thank you.”

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