Lee and Jen Suurhoff and their two young children from Fort McMurray are temporarily calling Terrace home after a massive wildfire forced their evacuation from the northern Alberta city two weeks ago.

Fort McMurray family makes Terrace their temporary home

After fleeing the massive wildfire in Fort McMurray, the family says they have been overwhelmed by the support of Northwest B.C. residents.

For a family of four forced to flee the Fort McMurray wildfire earlier this month, the support they have received since arriving in Terrace has been overwhelming.

Jen and Lee Suurhoff along with their two daughters Madelyn, 6, and Reese, 2, will be staying with relatives in town until they are allowed to return to Alberta and survey the damage done to their home.

The pair, originally from Campbell River, say they are now working on getting settled in to everyday life in Terrace.

It didn’t take long following their arrival before help from the community started pouring in. Jen was overwhelmed by the response to her social media postings.

“My inbox has been flooded,” she said. “[By] the second day there were tonnes of people coming to drop off toys, clothes, food and even gift cards.”

“Everyone here [has] really, really opened their arms,” Lee remarked.

The Suurhoffs don’t yet know the fate of their house of three years in Fort McMurray and say that even as they were evacuating they weren’t prepared for what the fire would do to their community.

“We were thinking ‘it won’t reach our house’ but by the time we left town we heard that the fire had come into our neighbourhood,” Jen said.

“We know that [our house] is not burnt down, the structure is there. We’re thinking it got some water and smoke damage. Half of our street is gone – houses on our street have been completely burnt and we missed it by a few.”

It’s the family’s first-ever stay in Terrace and they are living with Jen’s parents, Andre and Emily Le Doux.

As of late last week, 20 families in northern B.C. have registered with the Canadian Red Cross.

Lee, a heavy equipment operator, said they chose to come here so that their young children would have a place to stay while he returned to work.

“Once I found out how bad it was, I knew I’d be going back [to camp] quicker than we’d be going back to our home,” he explained. “So I at least wanted my family to be with family.”

It is expected to take months before residents will be able to go back home again and so the Suurhoff family has chosen to enrol their eldest daughter in school.

“We went to check out the school down the road because we weren’t sure if we were going to send her to school because that’s a lot of change for a six-year-old,” Jen said.

“But we met the principal and they gave her everything that she needed. They let her pick out a new backpack, they gave her supplies, they put her in the hot lunch and breakfast program all for free.”

A local gymnastics club also provided spots for both the daughters free of charge. “We’re just trying to establish a routine, that is the best way we can settle,” Jen explained. “[Madelyn] goes to school, they’re both going to be in gymnastics. We’re just trying to get back that sense of normal.”

Lee was an hour and a half away from home at work when the evacuation of Fort McMurray started on May 3, but he wasn’t worried because the first reports stated that the fire was still some distance from their home.

“It pretty much went from nothing to evacuation in a couple of hours – it got bad pretty fast,” Jen reflected. By the time Lee arrived home that day, the entire town was being evacuated.

“We didn’t know if we were going to be gone for a couple of days or a week, we kind of packed for week, but now we’re probably talking about three months or so,” she continued.

Since registering with the Red Cross, the Suurhoffs have been receiving updates from the Alberta government by email and phone. An estimate of how long it will take before residents can return to Fort McMurray is expected to be released this week.

Lee and Jen are eager to head back and start rebuilding. “The thing about Fort McMurray is the community is amazing, just like Terrace is here,” said Lee. “I don’t think the community will take a whole lot to come back.”

 

Just Posted

College buys a yurt to boost student success

Round tent-like structure part of college instructional shift

Soup kitchen sees “groundswell of community support”

Donations toward looming tax bill push non-profit back in the black

Terrace husband and wife honoured for saving each other’s lives

BC Ambulance presented each a Vital Link Award for separate incidents of CPR

Council supports lobby for fair share of cannabis tax revenue

The City of Terrace is throwing its support behind a West Kelowna… Continue reading

Airport registers modest passenger increase

Manager anticipates further growth in 2018 as expansion project nears completion

Airport registers modest passenger increase

Manager anticipates further growth in 2018 as expansion project nears completion

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

B.C. woman who forged husband’s will gets house arrest

Princeton Judge says Odelle Simmons did not benefit from her crime

Women’s movement has come a long way since march on Washington: Activists

Vancouver one of several cities hosting event on anniversary of historic Women’s March on Washington

Most Read