ALBERTA
02/13/2018 16:14 EST | Updated 02/14/2018 16:18 EST

Fort McMurray Fire Victim Wins $1-Million Lottery Prize

The money will be a big help in finishing the rebuild on Bill and Carrie Pendergast's home.

Carrie and Bill Pendergast pose with their novelty cheque after Bill won $1 million in a Lotto 6/49 draw.
Atlantic Lottery
Carrie and Bill Pendergast pose with their novelty cheque after Bill won $1 million in a Lotto 6/49 draw.

A couple who lost their home in the Fort McMurray wildfire now have a lot of extra dough to finish rebuilding it.

Bill Pendergast won $1 million in a Lotto 6/49 draw earlier this month, thanks to a ticket he bought while visiting his sick father in Newfoundland, according to Atlantic Lottery.

He stopped at a gas station in Goulds, Nfld. to get his dad a 7 Up when he decided to buy a ticket.

As soon as he found out he won, he called his wife Carrie, who was in Fort McMurray and she booked a flight over right away.

Carrie told HuffPost Canada that their home was a total loss after the devastating 2016 fire.

Courtesy Carrie Pendergast
The Pendergasts' home, before and after the fire in 2016.

"We managed to get NOTHING out of the house after the fire... it burned SO HOT there was simply nothing left," she said.

"Afterwards it just looked like a war zone."

Coins that belonged to Bill's father inside a metal box that was inside a fire-proof safe were incinerated and some even melted together. Carrie also lost sentimental family jewelry and items her kids made when they were small.

She was in Ontario visiting grandchildren as the fire was spreading, and got in touch with a friend who was boarding with them in Fort McMurray to urge her to go wake Bill up.

To say from devastation to elation is really an understatement.Carrie Pendergast

He was asleep with his earplugs in, phone turned off and room-darkening blinds on the window when the friend woke him up.

"If my friend hadn't been there, he probably wouldn't have got out."

She went to go wake him up one minute before they heard on the radio that they had half an hour to escape.

Bill spent 20 minutes trying to wrangle their cat, Carrie said. He also grabbed their dog, bird, a few boxes of photos and one that he thought contained photos but was instead full of music cassettes.

Courtesy Carrie Pendergast
Bill Pendergast with "all his worldly possessions a week after the fire," aka his socks and underwear.

Carrie said she saw a sign of hope when flowers started to grow through the tackifier, a product that was sprayed over debris left from the fire to try to prevent ashes and other possibly toxic substances from flying around.

"To say from devastation to elation is really an understatement, nobody died as a direct cause of the fire, but [Bill] very easily could have."

Courtesy Carrie Pendergast
Flowers growing on the Pendergasts' property after the fire.

Rebuilding their home, which they haven't lived in for 22 months, has been a headache, she said, because of problems with the contractor. There's been little progress since work started seven months ago, she said. Exterior windows were put in last September and work only re-started two weeks ago when HVAC pipes were installed.

"People who started to build long after we did have been living in their homes for quite some time now," she said.

They hope to hire a lawyer to "force him to either get moving or get out."

Courtesy Carrie Pendergast
Bill and Carrie Pendergasts' Fort McMurray home under construction.

Carrie and Bill, a 50-year-old millwright who works for Suncor Energy, also plan to take a Caribbean vacation with their sons later this year, Bill told the Telegram.

They also hope to set up education funds for their grandsons, Carrie told HuffPost.

"It's not an amount of money like it used to be," she said of the $1-million prize.

"It used to be if you won a million dollars, you're rich, now it's not even really enough to retire on because a lot of houses cost that much money. But it certainly is life changing, and it will make a big difference in our lives."

Bill also has one more plan for the winnings.

"I have always wanted a Mustang, and I will finally have one, I'm 100-per-cent sure of that," he said.

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