KAMLOOPS - As evacuees from the wildfire in Fort McMurray look for a safe place to stay while they wait for news on their hometown, some are setting up in Kamloops.
Alejandra Carroll and her family fled the flames on Tuesday, May 3, and have made their way to Kamloops. The Carrolls — Alejandra, her husband, three sons (aged 10, nine and four) and family dog — made it to Knutsford Friday night, where they’re staying with her husband’s mother.
“We’re trying to make the boys' life as normal as possible,” she says. “We’re trying to just pretend we’re living here. It’s kind of weird to explain the feeling when you’re displaced.”
She says the uncertainty of knowing when Fort McMurray will open for residents again makes it hard to plan the future. For now they’ve registered her two older sons in school, one at South Sahali Elementary and the other at Summit Elementary, and at this point plan on staying until at least the end of the school year.
Her husband's employer, a company which serviced the oil sands, is being supportive but everything is uncertain, she says. She was a realtor in Fort McMurray, and is considering looking for work here in the same field.
With a family of five and a dog it’s a lot to add to her mother-in-law’s house, Carroll says, so they’re looking for their own housing, but the uncertain timeline and pet make it difficult.
Elly Grabner, who helped organize the Kamloops Pit Stop for Fort McMurray Evacuees Facebook group says she’s spoken to other evacuees who are having similar issues. Through the pit stop group she’s spoken with roughly 25 individuals who are looking at Kamloops as their home for now, at least until they know more about what’s left in Fort McMurray.
“Most of the people that I’ve spoken to, they really want to get back there and back to their life,” she says. “They’re here temporarily, and came because they have roots in Kamloops.”
Grabner says she’s heard of similar issues as the Carrolls, with landlords typically wanting longer term rentals. She says furniture is also an issue because most evacuees have homes in Fort McMurray which did survive the fire and don’t want to buy a home’s worth of supplies for a temporary house.
Carroll says they believe their stuff survived the wildfire, though she’s not sure. From the images she’s seen the fire got to the treehouse in her family’s back yard in the Thickwood neighbourhood, but to her best knowledge, the house remains standing.
“We don’t want to pack a lot of things, our stuff is still there,” she says. “We’re trying to be proactive, stay positive.”
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