By Wednesday night, a wildfire being described as a “monster” by officials had reached an area that was considered safe just hours earlier.
People forced out of their homes by the Fort McMurray wildfire gathered in Anzac Wednesday, only to be told that night, they’d have to leave.
At 9:50 p.m. a mandatory evacuation order was issued for the communities of Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation.
Before he left home, Anzac resident Michael McWilliams set up his webcam on the roof of his house and faced it north.
“I stayed up until the last minute to see if my place was going to burn down,” McWilliams said. “I was pretty nervous about that. I’ve put a lot of work into it so I was really glad I could keep an eye on it. I was keeping in contact with other people from the neighbourhood too, trying to give information out to people when I could.”
READ MORE: Fort McMurray fire: Timeline of events
He’s been watching the footage online until power and internet cut out. While it’s terrifying, he said it’s also reassuring to see firefighters hosing down homes in the area, doing their best to stop the flames.
“I got to see the water bombers going in every three minutes or so for certain periods of time. You could see the effect that they have when they do their job. They stop the fire in its tracks.”
Watch below: Global News surveys the damage in Anzac Friday
Over the course of the day Wednesday, the fire moved about three kilometres. By 5:15 p.m. it was considered “on Anzac’s doorstep.”
McWilliams’ webcam video shows the smoke approaching his home, passing north and looping back. He wasn’t hopeful his home would stand much longer.
“I was constantly handling the footage and taking a look and getting more and more nervous because as you watch the footage, it gets closer and closer. Houses across the street are going up and I was sure when I woke up this morning, and when I saw the camera was dead, I was fearing the worst. I thought the place had gone up,” McWilliams said.
“I found out this morning that my place is still intact,” he said, “having watched the efforts yesterday. All I can say is thanks.”
“They are doing a tough job. I am sure they are running from place to place, dealing with all the little issues and all I can say is that I am thankful they were able to do that. It means a tonne to me.”
An update from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo on Friday said more than 12 structures in Anzac had been destroyed.