Over the past year countless harrowing stories of how people escaped the Fort McMurray wildfire have been told.
The anniversary of the evacuation, May 3, is right around the corner.
Lifelong resident, Lyle Daleug and his family and friends escaped the city in unconventional fashion.
They had been preparing to leave to city via Highway 63 when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. Luckily their neighbours came by and offered to take them via the Clearwater River on their jet boat.
IN PICTURES: 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire
They made it to the Clearwater River Lodge and met up with the owner and his wife. After a night’s sleep the smoke started getting heavy and they decided to head further away from the city to a friend’s cabin.
Once everyone was safe at the new site, Daleug and one of his friends set out to go back to the lodge to gather some supplies.
That’s when they spotted a fire on the east bank of the river.
“We were watching the smoke and just keeping an eye on it, and next thing you know the wind picked up and the smoke turned black, black, black. The helicopter buzzed over top of us and he couldn’t land because it was so windy, so he buzzed around a few times and he threw a water bottle down with a note taped to it,” said Daleug.
What was on that note?
“Guys the fire is about five miles away and it’s coming fast… you gotta go.”
WATCH: Lyle Daleug tells 630 CHED his family’s story as they ran from ‘The Beast’
They packed up everything they could, loaded it back into three jet boats, and took off down the Clearwater River until they got to where the fire originally started.
“By this time it was so out of control it (the fire) was on both sides of the river and before we got to it we told the kids it was going to get smoky, so we covered them all up in blankets so they couldn’t see nothing and then we opened up the boats wide open (sic) and went through the fire. It was about a mile of fire on both sides of the river,” said Daleug.
They eventually found a clearing along the river and the helicopter dropped down to tell them to get out of the city because the pilot could barely see the river from the air, all the way to Fort McMurray.
“We all jumped in the helicopter; they had to do two trips. They flew us to Gordon Lake fire tower and there’s a little airstrip there. We staged there and then they brought in a Huey helicopter, picked us all up and took us to Conklin,” said Daleug.
Daleug, his wife, two children and a relative are all living in a two bedroom apartment in Fort McMurray.
Their home in Waterways was one of the few in that neighbourhood that wasn’t burned, but was badly damaged by smoke.
IN PICTURES: Return to Fort McMurray
Daleug and his wife just recently settled with the insurance company and he thinks it’ll be another three months at least before they can get a new trailer.
Despite all that, Daleug said Fort McMurray is home and he and his family have no intention of ever leaving the city.