A burnt out pick up truck is seen in the driveway of a burnt down home in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood in Fort McMurray

In Fort McMurray, stark contrast between devastated and untouched neighbourhoods

It's impossible to tell where one house ended and the next began.

FORT MCMURRAY — It’s impossible to tell where one house ended and the next began.

Zoom out on this stretch of Beacon Hill Drive in southwest Fort McMurray and it’s a scene sapped of colour — all charred black, ashy white and sickly beige.

Zoom in and everyday objects become discernible in a tangled sea of rubble — the lopsided frame of a swingset, a barbecue, a wire cage for a pet hamster or bird.

By the curb is the husk of a pickup truck, its tires melted puddles on the pavement. Further back, the remnants of a wall, crumpled like a piece of paper, and what’s left of a home’s interior plumbing, water still spurting out.

Yet bus shelters remain intact.

Beacon Hill was one of the first Fort McMurray neighbourhoods to catch fire a week ago, regional fire chief Darby Allen told reporters on a bus tour Monday of the northeastern Alberta city.

If not for the quick action and smart decisions of firefighters, much more of Fort McMurray would have suffered the same fate, he said.

Up to 90 per cent of the city was saved in the end — 2,400 structures damaged and 25,000 still standing.

As the bus makes its way through downtown Fort McMurray’s main drag, Franklin Ave., nothing seems amiss except for the absence of a single human being. Strip malls, the local college and the hospital were all untouched by the flames.

Firefighters worked for 12 hours to keep flames on a thickly treed hillside from spreading, Allen said. Had they not been successful, “we would have lost the downtown.”

Uphill, in the community of Abasand, it’s a scene of stark contrast.

On one side of a street, a row of homes is perfectly intact. On the other, a condo complex has been flattened.

Under the parking garage of the complex remain a few parked vehicles. A blackened children’s bicycle leans against a chain-link fence along with an adult-sized one. Across the way is a blackened bath tub and an singed stove, flipped upside-down.

When destroyed buildings can be found so close to pristine ones in the aftermath of a fire, it’s not a fluke, said Allen.

“When you see isolated instances like that, it was specific firefighter operations internally that stopped the spread of that fire.”

To Fort McMurray residents seeing the devastating images on television or social media for the first time, Allen had a message — hundreds of emergency workers “gave their all” to save as much of the city as they could.

“Fort McMurray is still alive.”

Just Posted

Air Canada reviewing how crew left passenger on parked plane

Air Canada said Sunday it’s looking into how crew members could have… Continue reading

New technology helps search teams find people in wilderness

HONOLULU — Yesenia D’Alessandro loaded a GPS tracking app on her cellphone… Continue reading

Senior Facebook executive says it would favour regulation

LONDON — A senior Facebook executive says the social media site is… Continue reading

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques set to return after more than six months in space

LONGUEUIL, Que. — David Saint-Jacques is set to return to Earth on… Continue reading

Ham radio operators in central Alberta tune in

Amateur radio enthusiasts in central Alberta tuned in for the weekend. Central… Continue reading

WATCH: Hundreds run in the 5K Foam Fest in Red Deer

The annual event took place at Heritage Ranch on Saturday

Cavallini, David scores 3 goals, Canada defeats Cuba 7-0

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coach John Herdman couldn’t be happier about the state… Continue reading

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse lands same job with Canada’s men’s team

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is the new coach of Canada’s… Continue reading

Steamy romance novelist Judith Krantz dies at 91

LOS ANGELES — Writer Judith Krantz, whose million-selling novels such as “Scruples”… Continue reading

Flying Wallendas safely cross Times Square on high wire

NEW YORK — Two siblings from the famed Flying Wallendas safely crossed… Continue reading

UK: Police visit incident dogs Johnson’s leadership campaign

LONDON — The leading contender to become Britain’s next prime minister is… Continue reading

Trump: ‘Surprise’ question about Pence led him to hesitate

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he hesitated when asked about endorsing… Continue reading

Indigenous drummers lead pipeline protesters on 22-kilometre march in Victoria

VICTORIA — The government approval of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion won’t stop… Continue reading

Retired UBC professor Peter Winterburn killed in Chile, school confirms

VALPARAISO, Chile — A retired geochemistry professor from the University of British… Continue reading

Most Read