Nova Scotia

Man escapes Fort McMurray wildfire to find Cape Breton home burned to ground

An online fundraiser has been launched to help Bruce MacDonald and his family, who lost everything in the fire in their Cape North home.

'There's absolutely nothing left,' says his brother. 'Pretty much everything was lost in that fire'

An oilsands worker who escaped the wildfire in Fort McMurray last week was struck by a terrible twist of fate when he returned home to Cape Breton to find his Nova Scotia home a smouldering heap of ashes.

An online fundraiser has been launched to help Bruce MacDonald and his family, who lost everything in the fire at their Cape North home.

Bruce MacDonald's brother Norm started the fundraiser to help the family get back on its feet.

"There's absolutely nothing left," said Norm MacDonald. "There's ashes and some timber. Pretty much everything was lost in that fire."

Norm MacDonald told CBC's Maritime Noon he got a call from his 15-year-old niece, the youngest of Bruce and Cathy MacDonald's four children, at around 8 p.m. last Thursday. She said her house was engulfed in flames.

Bruce MacDonald escaped the wildfire in Fort McMurray last week, only to return home to Cape North, Cape Breton, to find his home a smouldering heap of ashes and charred timber. (Submitted by Norm MacDonald)

'It's kind of ironic'

Luckily, her 20-year-old brother was home at the time of the fire and woke as smoke filled the house. He was able to alert his other family members to get out.

Norm MacDonald said his brother, who worked in the camps north of Fort McMurray, didn't find out about the fire until he was en route home from Alberta early Friday morning.

"That night, his plane had left at about 1 o'clock in the morning, and he hadn't found out about his home until actually the next morning," said Norm.

"It's kind of ironic, in a sense, because we had been in touch back and forth over the week with all the raging fires out there that were taking place."

A chimney stack is nearly all that's left of the MacDonalds's home. (Submitted by Norm MacDonald)

At least family was safe

Norm McDonald said his brother told him the loss of the material possessions doesn't matter. His main concern was that his family was safe.

"The very first thing he said was 'thank God,' that the main, the most important thing was his family. His family was all right, there was nobody hurt," said Norm MacDonald.

"It's like a death, when you first find out. It's like a traumatic shock that takes — not days, not weeks — but months to get over. It's really hard to put into words at this time how they would be coping."

On the bright side, Norm MacDonald said the fundraising campaign for his brother is going "exceptionally" well.

"Truly, he's overwhelmed. He can't describe into words how that's going to help them."

The main focus is to move forward and rebuild. (Submitted by Daniel Usifer)

As of 11 a.m. Monday, the GoFundMe page for the MacDonald family had raised more than $14,000 — $4,000 more than the $10,000 goal.

"In our community, we have people that are suffering with various illnesses, cancers and different things that are going on are also being fundraised for," said Norm MacDonald.

"It just seems that, no matter what the extent of being, it's not tapped out, that people are still trying to help."

He said he's not sure when or if his brother will be heading back to Alberta.

"It almost seems like there will be no 'out West' for a while," he said.

Right now, he said his brother's main focus is to move forward and rebuild from the ashes.

With files from Maritime Noon