Escaping Fort McMurray
Carbonear welder recounts fiery ride to airport
Mark Wareham was right in the thick of it trying to find his way to the airport in Fort McMurray. Travelling south through downtown Fort McMurray, he came across lots of smoke and traffic, and eventually he was driving directly past the flames.
“It was like the apocalypse, driving through all the flames,” the Carbonear native told The Compass last Wednesday.
“There was a few times that I was going to turn around and come back and jump the median in my car or whatever, but I just couldn’t do it.”
His last day of work before returning home for two weeks was Tuesday, May 3. Wareham lived in Fort McMurray for nine years before moving back to Carbonear last August with his wife Sherri.
He left work early at 2 p.m. and went back to his condo to collect his belonging before hitting the road.
Wareham periodically had to stop due to other drivers who were taking pictures, which slowed his progress. Approaching Beacon Hill, he could see the entire community to his right was engulfed in flames. At this point, he was still considering turning around.
“I drove through all the smoke and the flames and I managed to get through to the top of Beacon Hill, and I jumped lanes to the northbound traffic, which RCMP made into a southbound lane, so they opened up the four lanes to go south,” said Wareham.
From there, he made it to Airport Road. Faced with the decision to either continue south or try to catch a flight, Wareham chose to continue on to the airport.
Fortunately, Sherri managed to book him a seat on the last flight from Fort McMurray to Edmonton Tuesday night. Wareham’s flight home arrived in St. John’s at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
While he feels good to be home, his heart is truly with the residents of Fort McMurray. Having lived there for so many years, Wareham knows a lot of people who will lose everything they own as a result of the fire.
“There’s actually a nice few people from the Carbonear area and Harbour Grace that’s up there, and a few of them that I’m after talking to are after losing their houses already,” he said.
“They are safe, but my heart is still definitely in Fort Mac. I definitely commend the firefighters and the RCMP working at this.”
As for his employment prospects, Wareham’s work site is approximately 35 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, and company housing has not been damaged.
“I’m on my two weeks off right now, and I’m just going to call ahead before I go back.”
Knowing full well how much the community is set to lose as a result of this devastating event, Wareham expects it will come back strong.
“I guarantee you, the way that community is there, they’re definitely going to come back twice as strong and definitely rebuild. It may take awhile … They’ll all get through it for sure.”
Carbonear’s Mark Wareham with his infant daughter Rylee and wife Sherri.