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Fort McMurray woman shares experience with Red Cross across Alberta

Guest post by Amanda Purcell, Canadian Red Cross

“I was a little nervous when the wildfire started to get close”.
 
It’s a feeling many residents of Fort McMurray experienced when the first evacuation order hit.
 
Tina Barrett, a 40-year resident of Fort McMurray was no different. When heavy smoke began to engulf the city on May 3, she packed her vehicle and left town with her son and Brandon, her young grandson.
 
As they attempted to evacuate the Timberlea area, they stopped at a nearby gas station to fill up the tank. Too many others had the same idea, leaving Tina with a choice – get gas now, or leave the city immediately without a full tank.
 
She and her family chose not to wait, and headed south on highway 63. By that time, flames were already shooting out on the side of the road. Tina was terrified, and says she didn’t think they would make it out alive.
 
 “My son had to calm me down throughout the whole thing,” she said.
 
It took hours, but they managed to drive to a shelter that was set up in Anzac - it wasn’t long before the flames began to encroach again. Again they had to be evacuated, this time all the way south to Lac La Biche where Canadian Red Cross volunteers in red vests were waiting.
 
“The help we received from the Red Cross was amazing,” Tina said.  “They were so warm and helpful. They even played with Brandon while I collected some clothing and did some of the things I needed to do.”
 
Tina has anxiety, so time at the shelter in Lac La Biche became overwhelming. After a few days at the shelter, Tina and her family decided to find a quieter place to stay during the evacuation.  
 
They headed even further south, to a town named Carstairs, north of Calgary.
 
She and her grandson stayed in a motel there for a few weeks. They also met with Red Cross staff in nearby Red Deer in order to receive further help, such relief funds.
 
Barrett doesn’t have an email address, so she wasn’t able to get the funding electronically. But after Tina went to the Red Cross office staff were able to help her receive the money through Canada Post.
 
“The people at the Red Cross made getting the help we needed so easy.”
 
Shortly after Fort McMurray reopened on June 1, Tina and her family made their way back to the city. She was relieved to find that her apartment was mostly untouched - however, like many other Fort McMurray residents, she needed a new refrigerator.
 
That isn’t the case for some of her friends and family members, having completely lost their homes in the heavily affected areas of Beacon Hill and Abasand.
 
Tina considers herself lucky that she had a home to come back to, and that the Red Cross was there to help every step of the way.
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