Edmonton

Paul Brandt, Aaron Lines visit Fort McMurray evacuees

Kevin Vokey, 37, his wife Lori, 38, and daughter Dakota, 17, have lived through some unbelievable moments while fleeing the Fort McMurray wildfire that destroyed their home, but on Monday they had one more.

'You can tell in his eyes he’s heartbroken,' says evacuee after meeting Alberta country music star Brandt

Lori Vokey tells country singers, Paul Brandt and Aaron Lines about their escape from the burning wildfire in Fort McMurray. (Travis Mcewan)

Kevin Vokey, 37 his wife Lori, 38 and their 17-year-old daughter Dakota have been living at a campground in Wandering River, since evacuating Fort McMurray a week ago.

When they had to meet with their insurance agent in Sherwood Park, they decided to stop by the Expo Centre evacuation centre in Edmonton to see familiar faces.

They didn't expect those faces to be of their favourite country singers.

"We couldn't have had better timing," said Lori Vokey. "I never factored in a hug from Paul Brandt or Aaron Lines. I just never dreamed that I'd live a situation where stars would want to hear our story."

Brandt and Lines, both Alberta natives, were walking around the Expo Centre Tuesday listening to evacuees' stories and played a few songs on an acoustic guitar for the small crowd.

Lines was born and raised in Fort McMurray. He grew up in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood almost completely destroyed by last week's wildfire. Little of the homes remain except the concrete foundations and driveways.

"Your hometown is your hometown even if you've been gone a little while," said Lines. "Fort Mac was always like an old friend for me. That old friend you don't see as much as you want."

Brandt proudly identifies with the province of Alberta in his music, singing, "This place will always be my home ... I've been Alberta bound for all my life ... And I'll be Alberta bound until I die," in his song Alberta Bound.
Alberta Country star, Paul Brandt listens to evacuees outside of the Expo Centre in Edmonton. (CBC)

Brandt said the evacuees' stories inspire him.

"We're finding an incredible people that are full of resilience.They've taken a hard blow, " said Brandt. "We're assuring them that we're here to support them and stand by them in the long run."

He says there isn't any plans for a benefit concert right now, but wants to figure out what the need will be and says he'll be finding more ways to give emotional support.

Kevin Vokey feels that support. Brandt's visit is a reminder to hold his head high through the tough, uncertain future of returning to a city the Newfoundlander now calls home.

"You can tell by looking in his eyes that he's so sincerely hurt and heart broken," he said. "That we all have to go through this means a lot and it hits right in the heart. It's a confidence booster. Now we've got another story to tell our friends."

The Vokeys will live in Grande Prairie while Dakota finishes her Grade 11 school year. But then they'll be Fort McMurray bound where they've lived for 17 years to rebuild their Abasand home lost to the fire.

The Vokey family (left) never imagined after listening to albums of Aaron Lines and Paul Brandt (right) that they would listen to their stories of fleeing the Fort McMurray wildfire. (Travis McEwan)

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