Bill Pendergast had finally got home after working the night shift at Suncor operation near Fort McMurray, Alta. Tired from a long shift Bill drew the blinds, turned off his mobile phone, put his earplugs in and set his alarm for 6 p.m. – so he could wake up and do it all again.
Wife Carrie was visiting their grandchildren in Ontario, and while her husband Bill was fast asleep Carrie switched on the news to hear that the fire and turned and it was heading in the direction of her home.
She immediately called home frantically to make sure that Bill was aware that the fire was heading their way. Thankfully, Leah Rogers, a family friend was staying with the couple. Leah burst into Bill’s room at about 2 p.m. saying they had to get out.
Bill immediately got the family pets, Sydney the Spaniel, Lefty the bird and Ozzy the cat. He also scrambled down to the basement and grabbed three photo and jumped into his red 2005 Mustang.
Driving away from his home Bill hoped for the best. “It was unbelievable,” Bill recalls. “The amount of smoke, and how fast it was moving — and it was moving toward our neighbourhood — and so then it became a mad scramble to get out.”
A few hours later Bills phone beeped with a notification from this home alarm. The backdoor was breached. Windows were breached, and Bill knew that this time it was the fire breaking into his home.
8:01 p.m.: “Fire is detected at 135 Airmont Court.”
“My heart sank,” Bill says. “When we finally got back into the house in June, it was like you would see on TV, when a bomb goes off. Everything was flattened.”
The home they bought in 2012, and were paying $2,400 a month in mortgage was gone. Not just the home but sentimental things too, like Carrie’s jewellery, a coin collection Bill’s father started in the 1960s, home movies, marriage and birth certificates, clothes, everything.
Like many Fort McMurray locals, the loss of homes and belongings broke their hearts. They would have to begin from scratch – this time with an avalanche of headaches and stress.
Since then they couple have struggled to rebuild their home and their lives.
In late January Bill went to visit his ailing father. Bill Sr. who was in hospital. On his way to see his father Bill stopped at a gas station near his aunt’s place to get the old man a “nice cold” 7UP as a treat, and to get himself $20 worth of lottery tickets.
The following morning his excited aunt woke him up and told him that someone in the area had won a jackpot. He then checked his tickets and couldn't believe what he saw: he had just won one million Dollars!
Bill immediately called his wife Carrie.
"I called my wife, Carrie, in Fort McMurray and she booked a flight immediately."
Naturally the couple plan on using the lottery win to pay for the final renovations to their house, buy his wife a special gift and finally owning a Ford Mustang that he always dreamed about.
At the ceremonial presentation of his lottery win, Bill told lottery officials, "It's pretty awesome looking at the bank account with all those zeros"
Not only will winning the lottery allow him to finally complete the home rebuild, but he will also now be in a position to contemplate going on retirement earlier than he expected.
The best part about winning the lottery though for Bill and Carrie, is "getting back to normal at their home in Alberta.
Our rebuild should be finished in the next two to four months so this is going to go a long way towards that."
His family is looking forward to spending some of the money on fun.