News / Edmonton

'That was our video:' Man who watched his house burn talks rebuilding life in Fort McMurray

James O'Reilly's shocking security cam footage was shared around the world.

A screenshot from the security footage that allowed James O'Reilly to watch his own house burn last year.

Metro file

A screenshot from the security footage that allowed James O'Reilly to watch his own house burn last year.

A few months after losing their home in the Fort McMurray fire, James O’Reilly and his wife Candace took their first trip away to attend a wedding in Hawaii.

Someone asked them where they were from, and O’Reilly told them.

Then, he mentioned the video.

“When people ask about the house and stuff, we can say, ‘that was our video,’ and they understand right away,” he said, laughing.

“People as far away as Hawaii know the video, so it’s interesting. It’s a connection point with other people that’s very easy.”

James O'Reilly on vacation with his wife Candace in Hawaii. When they travel, people know the video, he says.

Supplied

James O'Reilly on vacation with his wife Candace in Hawaii. When they travel, people know the video, he says.

The video of course, is the security cam footage that allowed O’Reilly to watch, pulled over in his truck on a highway in flames, as his home of two decades burned to the ground.

After first sharing his story with Metro, his video was shared worldwide, including in media across North America and Europe.

But, a year later, one of the people who hasn’t seen the whole thing is O’Reilly’s wife. Even he still gets a bit sad, when re-watching things like their fish tank and the photos on the walls vanish behind clouds of smoke.

“I think it’ll be that way for awhile, there’s a lot of things to look forward to, but it’ll always take a while to get over that,” he said. “I don’t know how long it will take.”

They did visit the site of the burned house—“it was more emotional than expected,” O’Reilly said—and found not much more than scorched foundation and bits of metal.

Sifting through the ash they found the burnt collar of their dog, Maddy, who’d died the month before the fire.

The one memento saved from the fire: a collar belonging to their deceased dog, Maddy.

Supplied

The one memento saved from the fire: a collar belonging to their deceased dog, Maddy.

Now the rubble has been cleared away, and their new house is well on its way.

Their lot is in the far corner Abasand, a quiet spot in a cul-de-sac where their bedroom window will look out on the edge of the boreal forest.

But O’Reilly said he has no misgivings about going to the same spot—in fact he’s looking forward to the peace and quiet.

“Honestly when you’re that close, fire is always a possibility, I worried about it ever since we were in the house, but when I look back at this, there’s always a chance.”

“It’s been really cool, seeing some people rebuild,” he said. “It’s hard not to be optimistic.”

More on Metronews.ca