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Fort McMurray wildfire: Woman reflects on loss of granddaughter, nephew, home

People continue to arrive in Nova Scotia on a daily basis from Fort McMurray. Many of the evacuees have personal and harrowing stories of escaping the out of the control blaze, including Christine Matthews. She not only lost her home and all her belongings, but also a piece of her heart. Global's Natasha Pace reports.

The last few weeks have been a nightmare for Christine Matthews and her family.

They just arrived in Nova Scotia after fleeing the devastating wildfire in Fort McMurray. The blaze cost the Matthews their home and all of their belongings.

While the family was trying to leave, Matthews’ granddaughter and nephew were killed in a traffic accident.

“Our granddaughter, who’s one of a triplet, she was 15, Emily, was in the last vehicle along with our nephew, who was driving, and there was an accident and they were both killed,” Matthews said.

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Extended interview with Christine Matthews on the  loss of her granddaughter and nephew

Christine Matthews speaks about the loss her family has endured
Christine Matthews speaks about the loss her family has endured

“All of a sudden losing our home didn’t matter anymore. We thought we were leaving, at least we’re blessed, we’re taking our family with us and to lose those two members of our family at that point was just devastating.”

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Emily Ryan and Aaron Hodgson, 19, were killed when the vehicle they were driving in collided with a logging truck.

At the time of the accident, Emily’s father, the deputy chief of the local fire department, was working nearby to try to get the blaze under control.

“He was fighting the fire to save our city for us and lost his daughter. We have so much admiration for him,” said Matthews.

Emily Ryan is pictured here with her father, Cranley Ryan, the deputy fire chief for Saprae Creek in Wood Buffalo.
Emily Ryan is pictured here with her father, Cranley Ryan, the deputy fire chief for Saprae Creek in Wood Buffalo. Facebook

Members of the family are all wearing orange ribbons in memory of Emily.

“Emily, her favourite colour was orange and of course it represents fire. We were escaping the fire and of course she lost her life in a fire because the vehicle exploded when it collided,” Matthews said.

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The family is also working to raise money to build a reading park in honour of Emily’s love of books and a youth gaming room to remember Aaron.

Despite losing so much, the Matthews say they will return to Fort McMurray.

“No doubt we will rebuild. That’s not going to happen right away but we want to rebuild and continue on with our home there,” said Matthews.

“Our kids are there, our grandkids are there, our life is there for the past 26 years, so we want to continue.”

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Anyone looking to donate towards the fundraising efforts can make a donation to the Emily Ryan Memorial Fund of Fort McMurray, Alta., at any Royal Bank. The family is also encouraging people to donate to the Canadian Red Cross.