Campers describe harrowing escape from Alberta wildfire: ‘I was hysterical. I didn’t know where he was’
A group of campers and riders were caught in the middle of a wildfire that sparked near Bruderheim on Saturday morning.
“I can’t even describe the fear. It’s terrifying,” Mikal Boudreau said.
The Boudreau family spends nearly every weekend riding dirt-bikes and quads on a private campground with the Bruderheim Riding Association in Strathcona County.
“It’s like any other campground, but we have the luxury of going quadding and dirt-biking, which you can’t at a regular campground,” Mikal said.
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On Saturday, Mikal was preparing brunch when the president of the association alerted the group that a wildfire was quickly approaching.
“It was so fast. I can’t even describe how quickly it all came. It’s such a sense of panic, because you just want everyone to be OK,” Mikal said.
“You look up and the flames were there already. It was just so fast.”
Ryan Boudreau said their trailer is down a slope, so it was difficult to see how close the fire was to the campsite.
“We only had the words of Willy [the president] to tell us, ‘You need to go,'” Ryan said. “These guys [Mikal and their two sons] packed up and left. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there with the trailer and thinking, ‘Do you leave this behind or do you try to pull it out?'”
Mikal and her 10-year-old son went in the vehicle and her 14-year-old son followed with the quad. The fire jumped so fast that her 14-year-old got separated.
“I was hysterical because I didn’t know where he was,” Mikal said.
“It’s bad enough when it’s your husband, but when it’s one of your children, and when you don’t know where one of them is, it’s the worst feeling in the world.”
In the midst of the chaotic scramble to escape, another family, who the Boudreaus consider to be acquaintances, jumped in to help.
“He [Willy’s son Tyson] put a bandanna over his face and ran through the smoke and the fire. He found my son on the other side, knew he was safe and ran through again to let me know that he was OK. It was unbelievable that he would do that. He didn’t even think. He just did.”
“Most people wouldn’t do that for someone that they just kind of know.”
The family was reunited about an hour later.
“How do you say, ‘Thank you’ for making sure my son is OK? I don’t think there are words for something like that.”
The Boudreaus estimate there were about 40 people out at the Bruderheim Riders Association site on Saturday. Many people were strangers to each other, but helped to ensure that everyone escaped safely.
“It was unbelievable how quickly a community of people pulled together.”
Due to the wildfires, the Bruderheim Riders Association site is closed until further notice.
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