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Monday 24 October 2016

'Ash was falling, the sky was red and black'

Irish woman's terror as she and fiancé fled wildfires in Canada

Geraldine Gittens

Published 07/05/2016 | 02:30

The wildfire rages along a highway near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada Photo: Reuters
The wildfire rages along a highway near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada Photo: Reuters
The remains of cars and homes in a neigbourhood destroyed by the blazes Photo: Getty
Seana Morgan Campbell and her fiancé Trent Deleeuw

An Irish woman who was evacuated from the raging wildfires of Canadian town Fort McMurray with her fiancé has told how they were forced to drive through the fire in order to make their escape.

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Seana Morgan Campbell (28) from Drogheda, Co Louth, fled her home in Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Tuesday with her fiancé Trent Deleeuw and her mother-in-law when city officials announced a mandatory evacuation of the town. "On Tuesday we went downtown and went into a mall, and when we came out, we saw that the whole sky was black and red. The mountains were covered in fire, and ash was falling and covering the trucks around," she said.

"We had to try and get a cab back to the house because they were going to start evacuating people. We were told we didn't need to evacuate ourselves, but literally within a few minutes there was mandatory evacuation of everyone in Fort McMurray.

"Myself and my fiancé just grabbed a few bits of clothes and our passports. Luckily my fiancé grabbed some food because I didn't even think of that. He grabbed some canned food out of the fridge and water.

"We have three German Shepherds too, so myself and my fiancé and my mother-in-law piled into the truck with the three dogs."

When they travelled out onto the motorway, they soon discovered that their only exit route was already choked up with traffic.

"They were so backed up on the north side of Fort McMurray that they sent us back south - so we actually had to drive through the fire to get out.

"There was grass and trees on fire leading down to the road. Houses were exploding - the insulation and bits of the houses were flying everywhere.

"I was panicked when we were stuck in the traffic. We were in the middle of six lanes of traffic and no one was moving. We were passing apartment buildings and behind them there was a wall of black and red smoke.

"We were trapped in the car and there was nowhere for us to go."

Eventually, they arrived at a lake and decided to rest for the night.

However, during the night they had to flee again as the nearby forest caught on fire.

"The fire was spreading at 50kmh. The wind was insane. You can't even think it's real," said Seana.

Seana and Trent are due to get married in Canada on June 25, but their wedding venue has been burnt to the ground.

They are still waiting to hear if their home has survived the fire.

Seana paid tribute to volunteers who took it on themselves to drive up from the city of Edmonton to bring petrol and food for the evacuees.

"If our house is still there, we'll go back up. If not, my father-in-law has a house in Ontario and we'll go there. We're going back to Ireland for a year later this year so we might head home early," she added. "We're meant to get married on June 25, but the place where we were meant to get married is now a pile of dust."

Irish Independent

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