New Brunswick

More New Brunswick oilsands workers return home

New Brunswickers who work in the oilsands continued returning home Friday, driven out of Fort McMurray by the disastrous forest fire.

Families relieved to have oilsands workers back from devastating Fort McMurray fire

A relieved hug for Robert Wright from Allyson Wright, as he returns home at the Saint John Airport. (CBC)

New Brunswickers who work in the oilsands continued returning home Friday, driven out of Fort McMurray by the disastrous forest fire.

Ian Vale was in that city when the fire grew out of control, and was one of many with a story about a close call.

"When I got back out to the highway, she jumped the road, jumped the river, she was burning on both sides," he said. "At one point in time I could feel the heat right through the window on the truck."

Oilsands workers Ian Vale was able to feel the heat of the fire through the window of his truck as he was escaping Fort McMurray. (CBC)
Vale was able to hug his family at the Saint John Airport, glad to be home, but facing an uncertain future.

It might be a month before he can get back to work.

"Not in a very good spot," he said. "At least I don't have to replace a house."

'Just care about him'

Robert Wright's family wasn't worried about money as he returned home. 

"We're OK, just so happy to have him home," said Allyson Wright. "I don't really care about the job, I just care about him."

With the chaotic trip now behind him, oilsands worker Andrew Smith was thinking of those who lost everything.

"A friend of mine's sister there, she said she lost her home and her place of work both burned to the ground," he said. "Just the clothes on her back she got out on. Pretty tough, it's terrible stuff."

Support grows

Hearing such stories, people in New Brunswick continue to respond by opening their wallets.

The Canadian Red Cross has had to add extra switchboard workers for the huge amount of donations pouring in. (CBC)
The Canadian Red Cross has had to increase the number of staff manning phones.

Donations grew significantly overnight, from over $11 million nationwide on Thursday, to about $30 million Friday, and counting.

"I'm not surprised at how quickly people have responded," said Bill Lawler, provincial director for the Red Cross. "We knew as soon as the evacuation order was underway the impact it was going to have right across the country, but particularly here in New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada."

Lawler says the donations are crucial for a relief effort he compared to running a year-long marathon.

With files from Matthew Bingley