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Fort McMurray family escapes house fire 6 months after escaping wildfire: ‘This city is really trying to burn us down’

Sarah Smith and her family are looking for somewhere to live after fire ripped through their Fort McMurray home just months after they returned to the community after the wildfire. Credit: Sarah Smith

A woman who was nine months pregnant when she and 88,000 other people were forced to evacuate Fort McMurray in May because of a wildfire is dealing with yet another fire-related tragedy.

Early Wednesday morning, Sarah Smith woke up to the sound of loud banging and her dog barking.

“I could smell smoke but I didn’t really think much of it. It was the middle of the night and I thought, ‘oh it smells like campfire out here,'” she explained.

With her boyfriend and six-month-old son still sleeping, Smith ventured out of her basement suite to find her upstairs neighbours had kicked in their door to tell them there was a fire.

“We grabbed the baby, grabbed the dogs and ran out of the house,” she said. “We barely had any time. We ran out of the door. We didn’t even have any shoes on and the house was burning so bad at that point that we got like sunburn on our faces just from walking out the door because it was so high in flames.

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“We were like, ‘oh my God. This can’t be happening again. This city is really trying to burn us down.'”

Smith’s family and the two upstairs tenants made it out of the house safely. She said the smoke detectors didn’t go off because the fire started in the attic.

“It was electrical. There was a light fixture, a wire right at the top by the attic and the inspector thinks it got pinched and it was just from the original construction of the house. It just got pinched and it was just kind of waiting to happen.”

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire’s impact on pregnant women studied in Alberta

Smith said fire damage to the house is contained mainly to the top floor and attic, but their basement suite isn’t livable.

“The attic is gone, there’s a huge hole in the upstairs roof. The main floor and the upstairs floor has a lot of damage. There’s insulation everywhere and there’s a lot of burnt debris everywhere. The upstairs is completely gone,” she said.

“Thankfully none of our stuff got burned but it’s a lot of water damage. You’re walking in inches of water going in there.”

The Red Cross has put them up in a hotel for 72 hours, which leaves them scrambling once again to find a home, just months after losing their home in the Fort McMurray wildfire.

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“It’s crazy for someone to go through a fire like that once in their life, let alone two times, six months apart.”

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

Smith gave birth to her son, Ryker John Llyam Mackay, at the Lac La Biche Healthcare Centre one week after fleeing her Fort McMurray home in May. She returned to the northern Alberta community in September.

Smith’s Fort McMurray home was destroyed by the wildfire.