A volunteer who helped fight the Fort McMurray, Alta. wildfire last week has shared some incredible photos that show what it feels like to battle such a massive blaze.
Ricky Vassberg was part of a group of four volunteers who supported a local fire hall during the crisis.
"I was a volunteer with search and rescue, but I went up there on my own accord," Vassberg told The Huffington Post Alberta.
"I have the training, I have the ability to help, so I went up."
"It felt like you were in an apocalypse."
The Edmontonian picked up a trailer and used it to deliver foam and supplies to those who needed it. He also monitored new hot spots popping up around the city.
Along the way he stopped to capture photos of the devastation.
"It felt like you were in an apocalypse," Vassberg said. "Everything around you was burning. A part of you starts to wonder, 'is it just going to burn up all of Alberta?'"
A photo shows the wildfire burning in Fort McMurray (Photo: Richard Vassberg)
The wildfire has forced more than 88,000 residents from Fort McMurray since May 3, the largest fire evacuation in Alberta's history.
The inferno has destroyed over 2,400 structures in the city. The fire continues to grow, and there's no word yet on when evacuees will be allowed to return to their homes.
Take a look at Vassberg's photos below. Story continues after slideshow:
Vassberg didn't only provide relief for the firefighters tirelessly battling the blaze, he also helped save two lives.
As flames swept through the neighbourhood of Abasand, Vassberg and another volunteer, Marty Frost, spotted a Facebook plea from a resident calling for someone to rescue her dog from her home.
The pair were able to find the home just as the building began to burn and pulled the dog, Max, as well as a bunny from the building.
Even though the family was devastated to see their home burn, Vassberg said they were overjoyed to see their pets returned.
Max, pictured shortly after being rescued from a home in Abasand, Fort McMurray, on the left, and after being reunited with his owners, on the right. (Photo: Richard Vassberg)
Vassberg cautions that he only went to Fort McMurray because he was trained, and stressed that it was a dangerous situation.
Firefighters gave Vassberg a spare fire suit and gear to help protect him from the elements.
The suit didn't keep him completely safe — while helping to clear a building that had been on fire, a fan fell on his hand and cut his fingers open.
Vassberg shows off a bandaged hand that was injured while attempting to clear the building pictured on the left. The volunteer's white truck, pictured, was also damaged in Fort McMurray. (Photo: Richard Vassberg)
Still, he doesn't regret helping out, and says seeing the scale of the response helped affirm for him that he was doing the right thing.
"It has been heartwarming to see how many people have stepped up to the plate."
A contractor by trade, Vassberg says he hopes to use his other skills to help the city rebuild. His truck was damaged fighting the fires, so he's started a GoFundMe page to help pay for repairs, as well as lumber and supplies to rebuild homes for families without insurance.
"Everything around you was burning."
Vassberg says his sister's family has lost their home twice to a fire, so he understands some of the pain evacuees are facing.
"I'm just a volunteer," he said.
"But just anything I could do that would help I'd do."
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