Stranded and panicking at a bus stop in the midst of an evacuation, Marley Walker was grateful for the offer of a two-wheeled escape
A stranger on two wheels and a stroke of serendipity helped one woman escape the out-of-control wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alta.
Marley Walker was working at a Gregoire Estates retail store Monday afternoon while keeping watch on the distant growing flames through the back door. “I just got really scared and needed to go home,” she said.
In a panic, while crying on the phone to her mother, the 22-year-old rushed to the nearest public transit stop only to find traffic at a standstill, with no buses in sight.
Walker felt even more alarmed by the blaze creeping up just on the other side of the highway.
“The fire was approaching the highway, so if it had jumped the highway it would’ve caught the buildings on fire, which would have inevitably caught the bus stop on fire.”
Enter a rebel with a cause.
“I look up from my phone and there’s a guy on a motorcycle and he just asks, ‘Do you need a ride?’ ” Walker hopped on the back of his bike and within minutes, they were on the road — fleeing the flames at a snail’s pace due to high traffic, but fleeing nonetheless.
“I’m holding onto this stranger I don’t even know. I’m watching my town turn different shades of orange around me. It was scary,” she said. “I felt very relieved because I knew I was going to safety. I knew that because of him, I would have a chance to see my mom again.”
Walker’s mother, with whom she lives, was already in Edmonton at the time, tending to her brother who had been in a car accident the week before.
Once Walker made it home, thanks to her highway hero, a friend of her mother was able to pick her up and take her to Edmonton, where she was reunited with her family.
“I left home with the clothes on my back and my cat in a carrier,” she said.
After the anxiety and dust had settled, Walker made it her mission to find the mysterious motorcyclist and thank him. She posted a picture on Facebook alongside a caption appealing for the public’s help in finding the man she simply knew as “Mike” — and it spread like the wildfire she had escaped.
Within a couple of days, he saw the post and reached out via text message. “He’s was like, ‘I’m here. Did you get out OK? Did your boyfriend’s family get out OK?’ ” she said.
“We obviously made small talk on the back of the bike to keep our nerves down a bit.”
Walker said Mike didn’t want to speak with the Star; he’s not seeking any recognition for his gallant actions and told her he was “just doing the human thing.”
She said he kept her from feeling like just another number. “It was nice to have somebody be concerned,” she said. “Everybody’s concerned, but to have somebody know your situation and want to make sure you’re OK, it made me feel more human, and not just like somebody affected by a fire.”
Walker and her mother plan on taking Mike and his family out for a nice dinner once everyone is relocated.
“I truly feel that he did save my life that day,” she said.