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Fort McMurray Evacuation

Inside the Fort McMurray evacuation

Inside the Fort McMurray evacuation: Church group recounts exodus from wildfire flames.

The gang at EnviroClean Drycleaners in downtown Fort McMurray sticks together.

Not only do they run the dry-cleaning business, they provide the music ministry at 11:30 Mass every Sunday at St. John the Baptist Church. So when the wildfire disaster struck Fort McMurray, it was no surprise that they hung together.

Cindy Julapton, who runs the dry cleaner, heard the news the afternoon of May 3 that Fort McMurray’s downtown was to be evacuated.

Her co-workers’ neighborhood had already been evacuated, and so in their own car with their families, they followed Julapton to her home, where they picked up her two daughters — Christine, 27, and Nikka, 22 — and her sister.

Then they all set out on their meandering exodus that ended in Lac La Biche 27 hours later. En route, two of the cars ran out of gas.

“The fire and the smoke were terrifying,” Julapton said. “My focus was to get out of there.”

Throughout the journey, they prayed prayers of desperation: “Oh God! Please help us. Please save us.”

By 1 a.m., Julapton was too tired to drive, so she pulled into the ditch to get a couple of hours of fitful sleep. The normal half-hour drive to Anzac to get breakfast and some gas took hours.

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