One year after wildfire, was the evacuation of Fort McMurray called at the right time?

Click to play video: 'Reviewing Fort McMurray evacuation, was it too late?' Reviewing Fort McMurray evacuation, was it too late?
As the one-year anniversary of the Fort McMurray wildfire is upon us, the community is awaiting the results of three reviews of the fire response. As Reid Fiest reports, residents are eager to see the reports as they look back at May 2016 – May 1, 2017

Few captured Fort McMurray fleeing last spring’s wildfire more vividly than Michel Chamberland’s dashcam video.

Nearly a year after that escape, he took the same drive with Global News him in the community of Beacon Hill.

“It was around here when you could feel the heat,” Chamberland recalled, as he drove along Beacon Hill Drive in his pickup truck.

Later, he described one of the most scary parts as traffic was gridlocked.

“This is when it got dark, and the flames and embers just started coming down on you.”

Eventually he emerged from the fire and smoke. However, his home didn’t – it burned down.

Now, looking back he realizes how close he was to not getting out.

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“Start worrying more about your safety, how things could have gone wrong if something happened,” Chamberland said.

Jared Sabovitch says his evacuation from his Waterways home was too close.

His Instagram post went viral, as he recorded his departure with lawns already on fire as he drove away.

“Hasty exit. That may have been the last time I saw my house right there,” Sabovitch said in the post.

His prediction was right; later he found out his home burned to ground.

Watch below: With the sky a bright orange and flames in sight, Alberta resident Jared Sabovitch records himself as he flees his home from an oncoming wildfire that’s devastating the province. (From May 2016).

Click to play video: 'Man records himself fleeing his home as wildfire bears down on his house' Man records himself fleeing his home as wildfire bears down on his house
Man records himself fleeing his home as wildfire bears down on his house – May 4, 2016

One year after the wildfire, Sabovitch is eager to see the results of three separate reviews into the fire, specifically on the call to get out.

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“I think we should have been evacuated a lot sooner,” Sabovitch told Global News.

The reports – two provincial and one municipal – aren’t expected until this spring.

READ MORE: Alberta to complete review into Fort McMurray wildfire response by summer

Fort McMurray’s mayor says there will no doubt be things to learn, but emergency officials were doing the best they could as conditions quickly changed.

Melissa Blake says in the early part of the evacuation, crews were trying to avoid mass chaos.

“People who were not under immediate threat were not encouraged to leave at that point simply because the traffic load on (Highway) 63 couldn’t accommodate more.”

Still, Sabovitch believes the call came too late.

“There a lot of people who disagree with me on that, but that’s how I feel,” Sabovitch said.

For his part, Chamberland is now focused on the future, and rebuilding, but he won’t ever forget how close he got last May.

“Every time I drive up and down Beacon Hill Drive, you sort of see it again.”

Yes, his dashcam’s still rolling.


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