A Cape Breton woman at an oilsands work camp in Fort McMurray says the mass evacuations following a massive wildfire that has overtaken the town are unbelievably chaotic.
Beanie O’Toole of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia arrived to work at the Suncor camp two weeks ago.
On Tuesday evening, as 53,000 Fort McMurray residents were displaced because of a mandatory evacuation order, Suncor told employees they would be be moving them from their camp in order to house the evacuees.
“We were told to pack our bags and be transported to another location, called Firebag,” O’Toole told Global News.
“They were going to send us from Firebag to Edmonton on a plane so that the people from town could stay at the camp that I’m in.”
O’Toole’s camp, Black Bear Lodge, is located about 26 kilometres away from Fort McMurray and has more than 500 rooms.
O’Toole described the heartbreaking scene as families arrived with few belongings after fleeing from flames. Even though they are safe at the camp, the smoke is still thick at times outside and in the hallways.
“Oh my goodness, it’s just chaotic. It’s unbelievable,” she said.
“One gentleman this morning said he lost everything. The only thing he has left is his vehicle. Everybody is just so upset, it’s just so overwhelming. It’s something you would see in a movie. It’s really, really bad.”
O’Toole has family and friends who have evacuated from Fort McMurray — some have lost their homes, another is stuck on a highway en route to Edmonton without any gas.
“It’s very scary because it’s hard to believe that this is happening,” she said.
“My husband called me yesterday morning and all I could do is cry because these people are losing everything, right? It’s so sad.”
She spoke to Global News on Wednesday morning as she waited in line to be transported to the airport to fly out to Edmonton. She expects to be booked on a flight home to Nova Scotia once she arrives.
However, she is unsure what will happen to the town, which has become a source of work for so many Maritimers.
“This is going to be devastating for Fort McMurray. It’s hard to say when anyone will come back here to go back to work. I don’t know what this will do to the community. It’s not going to be good.”