In a matter of hours, Fort McMurray—a bustling Alberta city of nearly 90,000 people—emptied out, bowing to an untamed wildfire sprawling quickly through the brush. Some people only had a few minutes before voluntary evacuation suggestions became urgent mandatory orders. And so what Fort McMurray residents grabbed before they filed purposefully out through the ash-flecked air was an emotional sign of what mattered most.
Albertans shared with Maclean’s the items they managed to leave with—and the items that were left behind. See the portraits of those items here.
Victims of the Fort McMurray fire describe what they carried when they fled their homes
What thye carried
Cassandra Benson, 20
“My brother was home with our dogs and the cat. He hightailed it out of there with a friend. My dad was closer, so he went home and got the animals. We thought he had just grabbed the dogs, but we came to find that he grabbed suitcases, and baby books. He grabbed bedding and clothes for us. He grabbed whatever he could in 15 minutes and left. If he hadn’t gone home, we wouldn’t have anything.
The most important item he grabbed was a pillow that my grandfather gave to me. He died about six years ago. He gave it to me when I was four or five years old. I was a very fussy child. When I would try to sleep, I would be a night owl. But this pillow would put me to sleep. I didn’t think my dad had grabbed it, but it was in with my bedding. I broke into tears. I have at least one thing from my grandfather.”