Phaedra McEachren snapped this photo of the smoke over Fort McMurray from the camp she was working at

‘There was a lot of tension and fear’

A Port Alberni worker is home after fire forces evacuation of Fort Mac

Last week Phaedra McEachren returned home to Port Alberni as one of the evacuees from Fort McMurray. As a cook at Noralta Lodge, an accommodation facility for workers in the oil and gas industries, she was one of the last to leave during the mandatory evacuation from the growing wildfire.

Located about 18 km north of Fort McMurray, McEachren remained relatively safe. A week ago the fire appeared to be contained, but within 24 hours, McEachren said the fire chief announced it had jumped the river and highway. From where she was, McEachren had a view of plumes of smoke moving closer, and the sense of fear at the lodge grew.

“There was a lot of tension and fear, but also a lot of camaraderie with our team members,” she said. “We wanted to help the families (who fled to the lodge). There were a lot of tears and heartbreak, but they were grateful. We made kid-friendly lunches. I played with (the children) on my break and let them wear my cook’s hat.”

By Thursday, the evacuees staying at the lodge had to leave as the fire intensified.

McEachren said the working conditions were difficult. The kitchen was about 35 degrees Celsius and smoky.

“It was very smoky and hazy,” she said. “It was hard to breathe, I was coughing and my eyes were burning. It was very emotional but we knew we had to keep it together for all the families who lost their homes…by the time everyone was evacuated, I broke down.”

That was just after McEachren finished working 22 straight 12-hour shifts.

The fire continued to grow and move north, so the entire lodge, including all workers, were evacuated by the weekend. While she was in the midst of it, McEachren said she heard of all the goodwill and offers to help.

“It’s amazing to know how many people stepped up to help others in need,” she said. “People with no connection, yet willing to help.”

facebook.com/albernivalleynews

twitter.com/alberninews

 

Just Posted

Rain and high winds to hit Vancouver Island this afternoon

Thursday and Friday to see downpour of 20 to 50mm and high winds on Vancouver Island

Learn the basics of publishing at Port Alberni workshop

George Opacic of Rutherford Press will present keys to the professional side of publishing

Septic truck rolls over without a spill west of Port Alberni

Single vehicle crash took place on Klekhoot Crescent

Vancouver Island partners sign hull design contract for floating LNG project

Steelhead LNG and partner Huu-ay-aht First Nations say the agreement was signed in Barcelona

RAISE A READER 2018: Port Alberni popup book event a success

First Book Canada brought 16,000 books for distribution in B.C.-wide event

Sproat Lake hosts fall dragon boat regatta

Port Alberni’s Sproat Ness Dragons earn third place

‘Like an Alfred Hitchcock movie’: Birds fall dead from the sky in B.C. city

Raptor expert says he’s never seen it happen anywhere in the Lower Mainland

Canada signs global pact to help rid world’s oceans of abandoned fishing gear

The federal Fisheries Minister says it’s a ‘critical issue’

GOP pushing forward for Kavanaugh, accuser wants ‘fairness’

Kavanaugh has denied al allegations of sexual misconduct

Tent city campers now allowed to stay in B.C. provincial park

Contrary to earlier reports, Ministry of Environment says there is no deadline for campers to leave Greater Victoria camp site

Former VP of lululemon joins B.C. cannabis cultivation facility

Kerry Biggs will be the Chief Financial Officer of True Leaf, in Lumby

Could cannabis help keep people in B.C. on treatment for opioid addiction?

People on opioid agonist treatment face lower risks of overdosing, BC Centre on Substance Use says

Around the BCHL – Trail Smoke Eater grad to captain NCAA Michigan Tech Huskies

Around the BCHL is a regular look at the BCHL and goings-on throughout the junior A world.

Thieves escape after man claims his wife is giving birth

RCMP searching for suspects in brazen daytime break in

Most Read