Members of the Sylvan Lake Friends of Fort McMurray held a barbecue for volunteers and Fort McMurray residents still living in Sylvan Lake.

Fort McMurray resident finds community in Sylvan Lake

The group recently held a barbecue on Saturday for the Fort McMurray residents still in Sylvan Lake to show appreciation for the volunteers

“We left at 6 a.m. things were still smouldering,” said Nikki Jackman as she recalled the day she evacuated from the Fort McMurray forest fires. Jackman was one of the thousands of residents who were forced to flee their homes when the town was engulfed by the worst fire disaster in Alberta’s history.

When the fire hit, she was an hour away from town working at a camp.

“The not knowing what was going on was the worst,” she said. “My daughter was stuck in town, so I had to rely on other people to get her to safety that was the hardest part for me. I didn’t see her the first night, it wasn’t until the next day that I was able to get to the camp that she was at.”

After safely reuniting with her daughter, Jackman packed up and left to Sylvan Lake and the Jarvis Bay campground where she has been staying ever since. In that time, she has received help and care from many residents of Sylvan Lake, including a group who call themselves the the Sylvan Lake Friends of Fort McMurray. The group recently held a barbecue on Saturday for the Fort McMurray residents still in Sylvan Lake to show appreciation for the volunteers who helped with donations during the time following the wildfires when an influx of evacuees made their way to Sylvan Lake.

Brenda Eaton, who started a Facebook page shortly after the wild fire began called ‘Sylvan Lake Wildfire Needs’, explained she and a group of dedicated volunteers used this page to organize donations after they saw Sugar Belle become the donation centre for people to drop off items in need. Eaton wanted to continue to support the Fort McMurray residents still inSylvan Lake and has since changed the name of the page to ‘Sylvan Lake Friends of Fort McMurray’.

“We still have families that are here from Fort McMurray so we are hoping that they will be able to make it today and join us with our volunteers,” Eaton said. “The community was very,very generous and donated all kinds of things from clothing, furniture all sorts of items in need.”

Jackman, who was in attendance at Saturday’s barbecue, was happy with the way she has been treated in Sylvan Lake.

“The people have been really good,” she said “I have family here, which is why I came this way. The support has been there and it is a really nice community.”

She added that she is unsure she will return to Fort McMurray after going through such a traumatic experience

“I don’t want to chance it happening again,” she said. “I don’t want to be on edge every single spring that it doesn’t rain.”

Eaton said that while the Sylvan Lake Friends of Fort McMurray is no longer actively looking for donations, they would ensure any donations received make it to someone in need if people were inclined to donate.

Jackman added that her “heart goes out to the people that had to drive right through the fire”, with Eaton adding the group is thankful for all of the donations and volunteer support they received from Lakers during the time following the wildfires.

reporter@sylvanlakenews.com