New Brunswick

Moncton family reunited in Edmonton after son flees wildfire

A Moncton father calls it "divine intervention" that his family is together after his son had to flee the wildfire in Fort McMurray on Tuesday, just one day after arriving to start a co-op placement at Syncrude.

Norval McConnell calls the fact that his entire family is together in Edmonton 'divine intervention'

Norval McConnell says his entire family is relieved after his son escaped the wildfire in Fort McMurray on Tuesday and was able to meet at an Edmonton hotel. (Facebook)

A Moncton father calls it "divine intervention" that his family is together after his son had to flee the wildfire in Fort McMurray on Tuesday, just one day after arriving to start a co-op placement at Syncrude.

University of New Brunswick student Kyle McConnell was in his apartment alone when he received a phone call from his landlord telling him he had to leave the building and the city immediately.

"It was my first day of work and I was just home after doing my physical test so all the other co-op students had been at work and I was kind of flustered ... because I had no one else to contact who had a vehicle," he told Information Morning Moncton.

His father, Norval McConnell, knew his son was in trouble when he called home on Tuesday afternoon, but as luck would have it, the family had plans to travel to Edmonton the next morning for a sports tournament his daughter was playing in.

"We were headed here on Wednesday for volleyball so it's been a quite remarkable 48 hours," Norval said.

Kyle McConnell of Moncton shares his story, along with his dad, Norval McConnell. 8:13
Kyle describes the past two days as an "adrenaline rush," saying he hadn't been worried about the wildfire.

"In the early afternoon when I looked out I was not even fazed by the smoke, I thought I could just wait it out and it wouldn't be a problem but then two hours later you look outside you're like, 'Okay, time to get my stuff together, let's get out of here,'" Kyle said.

"It was a pretty wild experience just trying to get away from the forest fire."

Strangers offer help

Kyle camped out near the Fort McMurray airport with two men who offered him a drive out of the city and tried to catch a 10:15 a.m. flight to Edmonton.

When the flight was cancelled he rented a car and began the drive which took nearly twice the usual four-and-a-half hours.

Normally it's ... kind of like driving from Moncton to Edmundston. We left at 10 and I arrived here in Edmonton at about 6 o'clock."

The majority of homes and some vehicles were destroyed in the hard-hit neighbourhood of Beacon Hill in Alberta during the wildfire that has led to mass evacuations. (Sylvain Bascaron/Radio-Canada)
"There were some parts where if we had to fuel up it would have taken us an extra couple hours just to wait in the lines at the gas stations."

Norval says it has been amazing to see Canadians come together to help others, including his son.

"He got here last night, he walked into the hotel room early in the evening — it was a relief for everyone."

Kyle doesn't know whether he will be able to return to his co-op placement at Fort McMurray. He plans to wait in Edmonton until he hears back from his employer.

with files from Information Morning Moncton