The Ryan family would gladly let the fire take their Fort McMurray home, if it meant getting back what the fire already took — Emily.

"Ultimately, it's still a shock, the grief comes in waves," said Chelsi, Emily Ryan's sister. "It's tragedy, layered on tragedy."

On Wednesday Emily Ryan, 15, was like many others, forced to flee Fort McMurray.

She joined Aaron Hodgson, her stepmother's nephew, in an SUV.

Highway 881 was busy, but RCMP say traffic was still moving at highway speeds as people tried to put distance between themselves and the fire.

At around 1:30 p.m. the pair had all but escaped the fire when, just outside of Lac La Biche, the SUV collided with a tractor-trailer.

Both were killed on the scene.

The crash ignited a massive fire that closed the highway and put up plumes of smoke that could be seen kilometres away.


A logging truck continues to burn beside highway 881 where it collided with an SUV. (Supplied: Stephen Barkley)

Emily's father, Cranley Ryan, a Wood Buffalo firefighter, rushed to the scene when he heard about the crash, Chelsi said. 

Their father has been relieved from active duty in order to be with his and the Hodgson family in Edmonton, she said.

Emily, one of a set of triplets, loved books, her sister said.

Side by side on her bookshelves sat the first editions of Harry Potter. Almost any dollar Emily was able to scrounge would go toward putting a new book on her shelf, Chelsi said.

"She was loving, always hugging or cuddling, and she loved to be the centre of attention," Chelsi said. "She has a beautiful singing voice and she was a wonderfully creative person."

Chelsi described her sister as an old soul. 

"She was always well beyond her years in maturity," she said. "We're sure she's not very happy either about being 15 forever." 

The fire in Fort McMurray has forced 80,000 from their homes and still rages on.

Many neighbourhoods are still threatened and the fire is growing. As of Thursday evening, the size was estimated to be 85,000 hectares.

While the worst may be yet to come, little else matters for the Ryans. 

"There's lots of grief to go around, but ultimately anything we lose is just stuff," Chelsi said. "We'd let it go a thousand times for Emily to be with us."