News / Canada

16-year-old rides horse to safety in midst of Fort McMurray wildfire

Jada Polem and her Quarter Horse mare Mya are safe after being forced to leave their home as the fire came.

Jada Polem and her horse Mya ride to safety alongside traffic.

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Jada Polem and her horse Mya ride to safety alongside traffic.

As the wind changed and wildfires pushed towards the north side of Fort McMurray, 16-year-old Jada Polem saddled up her horse and started riding through the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Confederation Way.

On Monday, her family had moved their three horses from the Clearwater Horse Club on the city’s south side to a north side campground they thought would be safe. But on Tuesday the winds shifted and in a matter of hours they were moving their horses again.

“We were waiting for trailers to come back to pick up my horse, but it became impossible for them to get through,” says Polem.

As the smoke became worse and worse, Polem’s father drove the truck and trailer that could only hold two horses while his daughter rode the third alongside. It was a terrifying prospect, as horses can be nervous in traffic, but Polem saw no other choice.

“She was a little nervous,” Polem says of her Quarter Horse mare Mya. “But she handled it really well. I’m pretty sure she knew what was going on

Jada Polem and her horse Mya.

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Jada Polem and her horse Mya.

“Drivers were smiling and saying things to me like ‘that’s a good mode of transportation,’” she adds.

It took about four hours for Polem to ride 15 kilometres to safety — to the water treatment plant where her father worked. There she regrouped with her family and other horse owners, who were able to find a trailer spot for Mya.

Now the whole family — horses included — is safe. They are camping in their trailer in Boyle, a town 350 km south of Fort McMurray. But Polem isn’t sure about the status of her family’s home. If there is extensive damage, they may stay in Boyle for the summer as they rebuild.  

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