Mountain Approach

Thoughts about the Alberta Wildfire, Part 2…

I am now sitting on a train called the Canadian. We just stopped in Hinton, Alberta on our way to Jasper, before entering the Canadian Rockies. I am alone on this trip, taking some time of solitude. For the past 30 minutes or so, I’ve been sitting in the “Skyliner Car” as the train has been following a river (the Athabasca, I think) with the Rockies in the background. The car has an elevated section surrounded by windows so that we can see the mountains as we approach closer and closer to Jasper.

This is exactly what I needed. And it is an experience I am able to have for free because I am a Fort McMurray evacuee. What lead me to this nearly 30-hour train trip to Vancouver started 2 Tuesdays ago, on May 3. It was a beautiful morning, and like most other Tuesdays I woke up around 8am. As is my typical morning ritual, I made myself a nice pot of coffee and spent some time reading – first the Bible, then the newspaper, then some manga. I wasn’t expected at work until 10am for a staff meeting. But I decided to come in a little earlier to prepare.

So I was at the church by 9:30am, and we were just hanging around until the staff meeting. The meeting itself was quite lively and hopeful as we were talking about our summer ministry plans. Afterward, we had a brief Senior Ministry Team meeting, where we tackled some heavier topics, but none that dampened our spirits too much. After that meeting, Neil and I decided to go out to lunch together, so we headed off to Taste of the Orient, a Chinese buffet close by. Little did we know that having that big meal was just one of the small ways that God was already orchestrating to sustain us over the next 24 hours.

After lunch, just before Neil and I paid, we were alerted to the first signs that there was trouble. A lady sitting by the window beckoned us over and pointed to a large plume of smoke in the direction of Abasand, exclaiming “That wasn’t there 15 minutes ago!” We paid and got out into the parking lot. This plume of smoke was definitely different from what we experienced before…

Wow, I just need to break my narrative off there because we just entered a tunnel. So cool. It would probably be pitch dark if it wasn’t for the lights in the train.

Anyway, back to the story… We were of course aware of the fires that were going on around Fort McMurray. The day before, there were even neighbourhoods evacuated. But as far as I could tell those people were allowed to go back home. And of course it being such a beautiful day with no sign at all of the fire, that we were really caught off guard by this plume of smoke.

Neil and I took quick videos of what we saw, but we were by no means in a panic. He drove me back to church, and that was the first I heard of the evacuations near by.

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