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On the day of the evacuation, the firefighter of six years described coming upon a scene of “complete chaos” as he and his wife left their house.“By the time we got our stuff packed up, this fire was already creating its own wind,” he said. Whenever a house would catch, the smoke would go black.”The couple grabbed their suitcase, not yet unpacked from their trip to Maryland, along with one set of pictures, a guitar and their dog, Barley.Despite the sudden removal from a home he will never see again, Cooper says the most painful side-effect of the experience was having to hold back from joining his brothers and sisters in the fire department on the front line.“My mind is strong enough to do it but my body isn’t in the greatest physical shape I’ve been in, you know?

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FORT MCMURRAY, ALTA.—Hands build houses, it’s been said, but hearts build homes.

And at least 20 Fort Mc Murray firefighters — even as they helped save the homes of countless others from a wildfire that raged through their northern Alberta city — had their own hearts broken earlier this month as their homes burned to the ground.

Acting captain Brent Wagner and his girlfriend, Judith Iwaszkiw, a 911 dispatcher, had both witnessed wildfires before.

Still, the couple could tell this looked “a whole lot bigger” than usual.

He was just days away from moving back in, after spending the last while upgrading its flooring, windows, doors and basement.“The contractor was literally polishing the brand new counters when the cops knocked on the door and told him to get out,” he said of May 3, the day of the city’s mandatory evacuation.

He was on the roof of the city’s hospital, setting up a water barrier to protect it, when he looked out in the distance to see his home engulfed in flames.In those homes — each unique in its own way but not very different from others across Canada — children were raised, bills were paid, dreams were imagined, arguments happened, tears were shed, apologies made, laundry done, TV watched, horrors faced. This is the story of 10 firefighters from the Fort Mc Murray Fire Department, and what the fire took from them.Damian Asher spent the last three years building his family’s dream home, a labour of love the wildfire undid in less than a day.He took some pictures before getting into his vehicle to head back to work, leaving shortly before dusk.“It was almost fitting to see the sun going down,” he said.“The sun setting on 26 years.”BO COOPER, The Survivor Firefighter Bo Cooper at his aunt and uncle's home in Sherwood Park, Alta. Bo Cooper lost his home within days of returning to Fort Mc Murray after spending several months in the U. fighting his third bout of cancer.“Life ain’t fair,” he said, adding with a touch of sarcasm, “it was pretty sweet to be back in my king-sized bed with my wife and dog, and have it taken away in a day.”The local firefighter from the city’s Fire Hall 5 Delta Platoon is currently on leave after undergoing experimental cancer treatment in Bethesda, Md.

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