Albertan recalls harrowing encounter with wildfire that destroyed home

Thousands of Albertans have had to flee their homes this month because of the ongoing wildfires in the province.

The good news is that some have been allowed to return home as crews begin to make progress on some of the blazes.

RELATED: Destroyed homes, infrastructure among wildfire losses in Alberta communities

For many, though, the return home was not a sigh of relief, but rather a heartbreaking moment when they saw the damage the fires caused. A growing number of Albertans are finding out their homes may not have survived.

Adam Norris was one of the Albertans who did suffer a loss.

The fire began a week before the family was first told to vacate. Norris noted they left and returned home multiple times during the blaze. But, eventually, it became too much for them to stay.

"We're just shell-shocked right now," Norris told Connor O'Donovan, video journalist at The Weather Network, in a recent interview.

Alberta wildfire damage/Connor O'Donovan/The Weather Network
Alberta wildfire damage/Connor O'Donovan/The Weather Network

(Connor O'Donovan/The Weather Network)

Norris recalls one particular moment firefighters knocked on his door to inform him, his wife and grandson they had to evacuate immediately.

And it happened right on time as the blaze was a mere kilometre away, he said.

"By the time I backed my RV trailer out from behind the trees and put it out on the road, the giant fireball was already in the yard," said Norris.

Upon returning home the first time after the initial evacuation, while he was in the building to gather personal belongings, the unimaginable happened.

The fire grew in the backyard again and he had just seconds to leave his property once more.


"Literally, it went from a black cloud a kilometre away to the fire in our yard...guaranteed, in less than five minutes," said Norris.

'It's been a roller-coaster...'

When he came back to his property again, he was horrified to see the blaze had destroyed his cars, a barn with work equipment inside, his trailer and other items. The second flare-up also destroyed the home he thought was spared.

"It's been a roller-coaster [of emotions]. It was like, 'yeah, it's good. No, it's bad. Yeah, it's good. No, it's bad. Yeah, it's good. Oh, it's gone,'" said Norris.

He said some items on the property were turned into "a molten pool from the fire," but then other surrounding objects were left unscathed.

"It was just a really bizarre, bizarre scenario," said Norris. "I had all my equipment in the back, by the barn on the large trailer. All that was parked there was melted."

His family was evacuated to Stony Plain, in the Edmonton area, Alta., where an emergency reception centre has been established to help those who have been left homeless as a result of the wildfires.

Norris is just waiting for word on when the family can go back and see what remains. His family escaped the fire unharmed.

In communities with elevated or high wildfire danger ratings, or could be threatened by a blaze in the near future, residents should take time now to review emergency preparedness and evacuation plans in the event of a nearby fire. Individuals and families should be prepared to take care of themselves for at least 72 hours in case of evacuation due to wildfires.

Keeping communities safe

As part of keeping communities safe, people and businesses are encouraged to create defensible spaces around their buildings through FireSmart Canada -- an initiative that facilitates interagency co-operation in the promotion of awareness and education. It is aimed at reducing risk of loss of life and property from fire in the wildland urban interface.

Wildfires/Getty Images
Wildfires/Getty Images

(Getty Images)

“It isn’t always that the flames come right up to the edge of town and catch homes or structures on fire," said Lori Daniels, a University of British Columbia (UBC) forestry professor and wildfire expert, in an interview with The Weather Network in 2022.

"Often it’s burning embers being carried from the fire, carried up on the wind and blown, sometimes many kilometres, from the firefront into a community, and then landing in homes and yards.”

More tips can be found here.

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