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Fort McMurray wildfire: photo of newborn pays tribute to firefighters

Fort McMurray wildfire: photo of newborn pays tribute to firefighters battling blaze
WATCH ABOVE: A photo of a baby born one day after her family was forced to flee Fort McMurray due to a raging wildfire is getting a lot of attention. The family fled the community with few belongings but say they wanted to say thank you to the first responders protecting their home. Julia Wong reports.

A Fort McMurray mother is paying tribute to firefighters battling the wildfire with a touching photo of her newborn.

Monique Brunet, 31, was 35 weeks pregnant when she, her husband and their toddler were forced to flee the city as the wildfire became a threat.

“I’m just feeling a lot of panic, of not knowing, a lot of fear,” she said about the mandatory evacuation order.

“It was one of those surreal things that you don‘t think that [it is] going to happen to you.”

The family drove to Athabasca before making their way to Edmonton. When they arrived in the Capital Region, Brunet began to feel labour pains.

“I’m not even thinking if [the] baby could come. In my head there was no way she was coming. I was only 35 weeks. In your mind, you have [more] weeks to prepare,” she said.

But just after 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, Brunet gave birth to a baby girl, who she named Brielle.

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Brielle Brunet was born at 10:39 p.m. on May 4.
Brielle Brunet was born at 10:39 p.m. on May 4. Courtesy/Monique Brunet
Brielle Brunet was born at 10:39 p.m. on May 4.
Brielle Brunet was born at 10:39 p.m. on May 4. Courtesy/Monique Brunet
Brielle Brunet was born at 10:39 p.m. on May 4.
Brielle Brunet was born at 10:39 p.m. on May 4. Courtesy/Monique Brunet
“[My husband] and I just burst into tears. [We have] every feeling possible – panic, happy, scared. I’m getting a newborn on top of being evacuated from our home, which we don’t know if it’s burned or not.”

READ MORE: It’s a boy! Fort McMurray wildfire evacuee gives birth at Lac La Biche hospital

Brunet wanted to take a photo of her newborn and use it to send a message of thanks to the firefighters trying to put out the wildfire and protect the city.

She turned to photographer Kym Poelzer, who took a picture of Brunet’s husband wearing a borrowed firefighter’s uniform and holding the baby.

Photographer Kym Poelzer took a picture of Brunet’s husband wearing a borrowed firefighter’s outfit and holding the baby.
Photographer Kym Poelzer took a picture of Brunet’s husband wearing a borrowed firefighter’s outfit and holding the baby. Courtesy/Evie Rose Photography

“It’s a very emotional picture because you think of everything that whole family has been through,” Poelzer said.

“She reminds me of a little phoenix, rising from the ashes – this beauty, this new life coming out of this absolutely destructive horrible event.”

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Brunet calls the firefighters heroes.

“It just shows how we feel about the firefighters. They’re away from their families. They’re putting their lives at risk for us, for our family, for our house, for everybody,” she said.

“I’d probably hug them. She’s the joy out of all of us right now. She’s our happiness. We didn’t know if anything was going to be standing, so when she was born…it brought some light to all this darkness I guess.”

READ MORE: ‘These guys are working around the clock’: Alberta firefighters share what it’s like in Fort McMurray

The new mother said she isn’t sure when the family will return to Fort McMurray but she’s staying busy amidst the uncertainty.

“I look at her and I just smile. She keeps my spirits high through all this waiting to go back home.”