North

Family loses home in Fort McMurray fire, goes road tripping

'We're trying to make it an adventure for the kids,' says Shauna Clark-Canadien, who escaped the fire with her family and a box of mementos, and is now making new memories by clocking about 5,000 km on the road.

'We're trying to make it an adventure for the kids,' says Shauna Clark-Canadien

Shauna Clark-Canadien escaped the Fort McMurray fire with her family and a box of mementos. The family is now making new memories by clocking about 5,000 km on the road. (submitted by Shauna Clark-Canadien)

A family that fled the Fort McMurray wildfire, and has ties to the North, is making the best of living in limbo by hitting the highway.

The home Shauna Clark-Canadien shared with her husband and two young daughters — Gabriella, 7, and Alessandra, 8 — burned to the ground last month in their Beacon Hill neighbourhood.

'The girls used to be horrible with road trips,' their mother says. (submitted by Shauna Clark-Canadien)
Clark-Canadien is originally from Fort Chipewyan, Alta. Her husband JJ Canadien is from Fort Providence, N.W.T.

The family escaped the flames with just a box of mementos. Now it's working on making new memories by clocking about 5,000 kilometres on the road.

"The girls used to be horrible with road trips," laughs Clark-Canadien. "We're trying to make it an adventure for the kids, going on road trips to see family and friends. Forget about the fire for a while."

Herds of cows and oil wells

Since losing everything, the family has driven north to Fort Providence to stay with family and regroup. They've also made several smaller day trips in  Alberta.

Clark-Canadien decided to not enroll her kids back in school for the rest of the school year.

Her youngest daughter, still shaken by the evacuation, "is reluctant to leave her side."

A pit stop in Vilna, Alta. home of the world’s largest mushrooms. (submitted by Shauna Clark-Canadien)
"Now we make lists of things they might see on the road like herd of cows, oil wells... That's off the list."

The family recently made a stop in Vilna, Alta., home of the world's largest mushrooms, as well as trip to Smoky Lake, the pumpkin capital of Alberta, and Edmonton's Fort Edmonton theme park.

"Just to keep their minds on the positive."

Time to rebuild

Clark-Canadien says support — emotional and financial — from family in Fort Providence N.W.T. has helped them deal with their loss and life in limbo. The community raised more than $4,000 through a GoFundMe campaign and smaller fundraisers at the local school.

"It was what we needed, definitely."

Clark-Canadien snapped a photo on the way out of her Beacon Hill neighbourhood. (submitted by Shauna Clark-Canadien)
The family is now looking for a rental home or apartment in Fort McMurray, another step in rebuilding their lives.

"It's such a close-knit community. I know we can bring it back through everyone just helping each other."

Clark-Canadien says while they are slowing rebuilding their lives, she's still hoping for one last look at where her home once stood.

"At this point I don't know if we'll even be able to go back and look through the ashes or if they are just going to clean it out.

"I'm hoping we can still go back because it's closure… sift through to see if there's anything left."