Day 6

'There's nothing there': Fort McMurray residents on what they lost in the fire

The wildfire that has savaged Fort McMurray this week left more than 1,500 homes and other buildings burned. The entire city of 80,000 people has now been evacuated. Day 6 presents a short documentary featuring two people who lost everything except for what they could carry as they fled from the flames.
Drivers wait for clearance to take firefighting supplies into town on May 05, 2016 outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Gail Bibeau says her home in Fort McMurray was a shelter and a sanctuary.

"My home was my soft place to fall," she tells Day 6. "The place I raised my two children, the place I made many, many memories." 

Her house was one of many that burned to the ground in the wildfire that devastated the city this week. 

"I grabbed the cat, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a pillow. And that was it," - Fort McMurray resident Chris Burrows

Bibeau lived in the middle house in between her two sisters-in-law. 

"We all built our homes at the exact same time, raised all our children there," she says. "We didn't even have fences in between the homes. It was one big, humongous backyard."

"There's nothing there. Nothing." Bibeau says. "I've seen videos and pictures. There are still trees standing. There are chimneys you can see. And then there's nothing but horizon." 

The entire city of Fort McMurray has now been evacuated and more than 1,600 homes and other buildings have been burned. according to numbers released on Wednesday. 

Like Bibeau, Chris Burrows had to flee the flames at a moment's notice.

"I grabbed the cat, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a pillow. And that was it," he tells Day 6. "That's pretty much all we escaped with."

Chris Burrows took this picture from his backyard, just before he left his home in Fort McMurray.

"As you're driving away with this big ball of smoke behind you, you think about what you grabbed and you look through your house in your mind and you think of what you left behind," Bibeau tells Day 6.

"The portrait my friend Stephanie painted of me, that's gone," says Bibeau. "And she fussed over this painting for months to make it perfect. Everyday I looked at it and just smiled."

Like Bibeau, Burrows' thoughts have lingered on the home he used to have and the life he used to have there.

"I actually had an elevator in my house and I remember the kids would play in the elevator," he tells Day 6.  

"I had a $30,000 comic book collection that I'd been collecting since I was 10-years-old. I had comics in there that the kids and I would go through from when I was younger. That's all gone."

"My mother in Ontario had been holding them for me all my life. And she just sent them to me not even four months ago."

For now, Bibeau finds comfort in the hope that even if her house is gone, the plants in her front yard, especially "a peony that my mom gave me when we first came to Fort McMurray," might still come back. 

"In my mind what I see when I go back is those two plants," she says. "I still feel that when I show up they will still be there."