Deep freeze encases cars in ice, leaves 200 without heat in Fort McMurray

Extreme cold is wreaking havoc in Fort McMurray, where some tenants are without heat and some cars are encased in ice.

About 200 residents in a Fort McMurray building were forced from their apartments when the heat went off

A car stuck in the ice in a flooded car park in Fort McMurray. (David Thurton/CBC)

Extreme cold is wreaking havoc in Fort McMurray, where some tenants are without heat and some cars are encased in ice.

Wood Buffalo Emergency Services evacuated about 200 tenants at Hearthstone Manor on Tuesday night after a water leak knocked out heat.

Kyra Daigle came home from work and found the ground floor of her apartment building flooded and her suite without heat.

Minutes later, firefighters knocked on doors to alert tenants that the building was being evacuated.

Tenants without heat and cars buried entombed in ice– the extreme cold is wreaking havoc in Fort McMurray as in other parts of Alberta. 1:16

Daigle and her boyfriend had minutes to pack clothes and belongings for themselves and their cat.

"It's been stressful, full of anxiety because of not knowing where we are going to sleep tonight," Daigle said.

Daigle and other residents were evacuated to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 165, where a reception centre and emergency shelter were set up by Emergency Social Services.

Jody Butz, Wood Buffalo's regional fire chief, said firefighters shut off the water leak Monday evening. But he couldn't say when the landlord would repair the boiler and restore heat.

Kyra Daigle and Zach Wells were forced out of their apartment at Hearthstone Manor after the building lost heat. (David Thurton/ CBC)

CBC reached out to the landlord on site, but she declined to comment. During CBC's visit to the building, work crews were trying to restore heat.

In the meantime, emergency services and the Red Cross were making plans to house residents who don't have temporary shelter.

"We understand to get heat back in that building may take some time," Butz said. "I don't know the actual time but it won't be in the next few days. We're meeting their immediate needs and also planning on the longer term."

Cars trapped in ice

At River Park Glen, another downtown apartment, a burst pipe flooded the parking lot and created thick ice that froze parked cars in place.

Resident Aidarous Mohamoud has not been able to get to work.

"My vehicle is all the way deep in the frozen parking lot," Mohamoud said.  "I don't know who is responsible for this damage. We need someone to help us."

"Our team is quite busy working with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and contractors to determine the source of the water," said Travis Chapman, director of On-Site Solutions, the company that runs the building. "There have been significant challenges running the heavy equipment required to excavate in the extreme cold."

Chapman said the company expects to have equipment available Wednesday to attempt to free the vehicles but it's too early to start talking about compensation for vehicles that may have been damaged.

Connect with David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 

About the Author

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.