Fort McMurray Fire: Tiny Hamlet Rallies Around Pregnant Evacuee

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LAC LA BICHE, Alta. — Sarah Smith had more on her mind than just the threat of flames and smoke when she fled her home in Fort McMurray, Alta.

The 19-year-old is to be admitted to hospital in nearby Lac la Biche on Monday to have her baby — a boy she and her boyfriend have already named Ryker.

"The day after Mother's Day he will be here,'' Smith said Saturday at the fire evacuee centre in the town. "Obviously my hormones are up and down and I'm a little bit emotional, but for the most part I am good.''

Like thousands of others, Smith and some friends struggled to escape the fires in the oilsands city on Tuesday.

With little notice they threw some belongings in a vehicle and spent 90 minutes just trying to get out of their neighbourhood. Once outside the city they ran out of gas and were picked up by another friend.

sarah smith fort mcmurray pregnancy
Kyle MacKay, left to right, Sarah Smith, Nikki MacKay (Kyle's sister) and Dallas Coone pose for a photo at the fire evacuee centre in Lac La Biche, Alta., on Saturday. (Photo: John Cotter/Canadian Press)

During the ordeal, Smith's boyfriend, Kyle MacKay, was stuck in another part of Fort McMurray. They didn't manage to reunite until the next day at the evacuation centre.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to go into labour, I was so close to my due date,'' said Smith, wearing a T-shirt that read "Dream Big'' over her belly. "I am just really happy that we are all together now.''

The stress and worry have been mitigated by the staff at the evacuee centre and the people of Lac la Biche.

"I am just really happy that we are all together now.''

When word got our about her pregnancy, a man offered the couple the use of a big recreational trailer. The man next door then offered them the use of his downstairs, including a bathroom and TV room.

"People have been very generous and we have everything we need for baby,'' she said.

MacKay said he misses Fort McMurray and his truck mechanic job but knows it will be long time before they can return.

He has big questions on his mind. Where are we going to live? What are we going to do?

They may move to Edmonton to find work, but for now MacKay is focused on his partner and being a father.

sarah smith fort mcmurray fire
Sarah Smith, 19, of Fort McMurray, poses for a photo at the fire evacuee centre in Lac La Biche, Alta., on Saturday. Smith had more on her mind than just the threat of flames and smoke when she fled her home in Fort McMurray. The 19-year-old is to be admitted to hospital in Lac la Biche on Monday to have her baby — a boy she and her boyfriend have named Ryker. (Photo: John Cotter/Canadian Press)

"It has been a little stressful but I have been trying to keep it calm for her,'' he said. "I try to tell her that everything is going to be all right.''

Smith said she is also trying to remain positive and forget about the chaos of the evacuation and the harrowing drive through thick smoke.

"I have to think about baby. If I am stressed out — he will be,'' she said. "I'm just trying to stay as calm as I can.''

In the meantime the couple and their friends are marking time at the evacuation centre, a facility filled with volunteers and staff who try to make people forced from their community feel at home.

"I'm just trying to stay as calm as I can.''

Volunteers just outside the facility run an ongoing barbecue, cooking hamburgers for the evacuees and playing music.

MacKay said that support has taken some of the sting out of a horrible situation.

"I would just like to say a good thank you to Lac La Biche,'' he said.

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