A major wildfire near Fort McMurray in Canada has forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate the area and destroyed roughly a fifth of local homes. One of the affected houses belonged to a man by the name of James O'Reilly, who got a uniquely intimate perspective on his home's demise thanks to a connected security camera.
O'Reilly shared the above video with the Edmonton Metro, after first witnessing it on his iPhone while driving away from the fire. It's a deeply unsettling thing to watch, with crackling noises and small tufts of smoke being the first signs of the fire's invasion. The living room is eventually deluged by the flames while alarms bleat and the camera turns monochrome shortly before it cuts out.
This is the power of new technology. Tragedies of human loss are increasingly recorded for posterity, whether we want them to be or not. The harrowing thing about this recording isn't just the personal and material loss. It's the thought that a person could just as easily have been there. But then, that's the other side of the technology coin: it helped disseminate the call to evacuate quickly and thus prevented further damage and the loss of human lives.
Expressing his gratitude to local firefighters, O'Reilly told the Edmonton Metro that he and his wife lost a lot, including the two clown fish in the tank visible in the video, but that he ultimately feels "We’re better than most." The couple have a camper van to use as their temporary home while recovering from the fire's devastation. The Fort McMurray wildfire is already thought to be one of the costliest natural disasters in Canadian history.