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Evacuation on Horseback: One Teen’s Story of Fleeing

July 1st, 20166 Comments

By Jada Polem

On Sunday May 1st, my father and I were on the deck in the backyard of my Timberlea home, barbecuing supper for my family when we notice a cloud of smoke rising from the tops of the trees.

My family and I decided to go for a drive after we ate to see where the smoke was coming from. We drove to my barn located at The Clearwater Horse Club behind Prairie Creek and saw that the smoke was coming from the right side of Highway 63, just before leaving Fort McMurray. The fire looked to be about 10 km west, so my family thought there was no reason to worry, but at around 9 p.m. Sunday night we were notified that we had to evacuate the horses.

At that point we figured it was only a precaution. We loaded some supplies, our three saddles and some hay and moved our horses to our very own backyard, where they stayed until 1 a.m.; then we moved the horses to Tower Road.

On Monday May 2nd, I stayed with the horses on Tower Road. The smoke seemed to be clearing as the fire was announced to be settling down and beginning to be controlled.

Tuesday May 3rd, I got up and headed to school. At around 1:30 p.m. my school, Holy Trinity Catholic High School, was put on lockdown due to the increase in smoke and possible risk outside.

At this time the entire south side of Fort McMurray was on mandatory evacuation and Wood Buffalo, Dickens Field and Timberlea were on voluntary evacuation. At 2 p.m. I was notified to be ready to evacuate the horses for the second time. Immediately I got my 12-year-old brother, Adam, from his class and we headed to Tower Road to check on the horses.

My mother had to drive to our house from the airport where she was working. I received a phone call from my father telling me to head home to grab belongings from our house. I met up with my family at the house, grabbed some clothes, water and a few family memories, and at 3 p.m. we all left with a few of our belongings, our two dogs, and headed straight over to the horses so we could leave town.

My father hooked up our two horse trailer where we ran into a huge problem: we own three horses but only have a two-horse trailer. We loaded my two youngest horses into the trailer; my father look at me and said, “Put her saddle on. You’re gonna have to ride her out till we find another trailer to put her in.”

We headed out Tower Road, having trailers pass us one by one, yet each one being full. I continued riding along through Timberlea trying to stay calm so my six-year-old horse, Mya, would remain calm. Staying close to my father's truck we kept going, making one last stop at our home to try calling more people with trailers to help us, but we were unsuccessful.

Over and over I looked back at the terrifying blaze that was getting bigger and closer every second. I was just hoping my family and horses would all get out safely.  

We made our way down Confederation, thankful for the other families trying to beat through the traffic, letting us through them to make up time. Our goal was to get to my father's work at the bottom of Confederation so we could regroup on how we were going to deal with the situation.

We took the horses out of the trailer and hosed them down, to cool them from the stress and heat of the fire. While my at my father's work, I got a phone call from Alicia Stevens, another girl that had to ride her horse out, and made a plan to have her meet me. After several hours we were able to figure out a plan!

At 1 a.m. Alicia's mom, who was north of town, arrived with their two-horse trailer. We loaded one of my horses and her horse into the trailer, put my other two horses in my trailer, where we then headed south for safety.

Jada has just completed Grade 11 in Newfoundland, after fleeing The Beast on horseback.

 

Tags: Teens

Reader Comments (6)

Wavey flynn said on July 12, 2016

Such a beauiful brave girl & the love for her horses!

Rowena Earle said on July 12, 2016

Beautiful story Jada, You did a great job riding your horse out

Erna said on July 12, 2016

Jada you are such a brave girl !! A beautiful story that will always be remembered.

Linda said on July 12, 2016

Wonderful girl and brave .blessings as you go back to Fort Mac

Maxine said on July 12, 2016

Beautiful story Jada.You certainly demonstrated an unconditional love for your horse.

Leanne said on July 13, 2016

You are very brave. I teared up reading your story. I am so glad your family, horses & dogs made it out safely.

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