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Fort Mac: Couple looks back one year later

Debbie shot this photo May 3, 2016, from her home in Timberlea just prior to evacuating.
Debbie shot this photo May 3, 2016, from her home in Timberlea just prior to evacuating.

FORT McMURRAY, ALTA. — One year ago on May 3, Brad and Debbie Drodge and their little dog Ozzy Bear evacuated their home in the Timberlea area of Fort McMurray.

Brad and Debbie Drodge, and Ozzy Bear

"I remember that day vividly.  I remember every thing about that day," Debbie told The Packet, as she recalled last year's events.
"I remember the quietness and the eeriness … I remember I said to my husband that I'm not taking any pictures as we drive through Fort McMurray, and we drove through Fort McMurray and we didn’t speak to each other at all.  It was just quiet."
It's a year later, and Brad and Debbie are once again living in their Timberlea home, and Brad is once again working for Suncor. They count themselves as some of the luckier ones.
"We were very lucky … we had minimal damage.  We had to clean the place — it took me two days to clean the refrigerator, but that was the hardest we had it."

FULL COVERAGE: Fire in Fort McMurray: One year later

Debbie, who’s originally from Hillview, can still recall the strangeness of their first night back in Timberlea in early June, and the uneasy, surreal feelings that accompanied it.
"When I woke up the first morning, my eyes popped open and I thought, 'What if something happened over night, and we don't know what happened?'" she recalled.
"It took a while to get back in the routine. I got a little dog, and I wouldn’t even leave him home.  Every time we would go anywhere I would take him with me.  It's strange.
“We travel home to Newfoundland and we travel back and forth to B.C., and every time I leave now it's like I want to take everything with me, just in case. But, of course, you can't do that."
Now it's a year later, and, like many Albertans, the Drodges continue to push forward through a fog of disbelief that the devastating wildfires that ravished Alberta were a full year ago.
"There's still a lot of disbelief that it happened.  It's hard to believe it's been a year already," said Debbie.
"We're thankful, but when you see so many other people that are still not settled, it's hard."
And, through it all, Debbie says the experience has taught here that, in face of hardship, people can still do good.
"The generosity shown was unbelievable … it makes you realize there's a lot of good in the world."

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