Since early humans tamed the first sparks, our species has been fascinated by fire. Every early polytheistic pantheon has a deity who is either a personification of fire or the master of flames. My childhood summers were ripe with campfires, marshmellows and guitar songs. During the winter we curled up in front of the fireplace with a thick book and a mug of tea. Candles were greatly sought after for make-believe games. Both my sister and I singed our hair a few times while playing Little House on the Prairie or Little Women.
Even though I knew that fire could be a hugely destructive force it wasn’t until I was 14 that I had reason to fear it. It was the summer of 2003 and I was staying at my friends lake-side summer cabin in Osoyoos. We were having a carefree day of swimming and fun when the wind changed direction and the forest fires began heading straight for us. All five of us children were having our pictures taken by the mothers when the fires crested the hills to the north. Within a few minutes the fires were about to jump the highway and head straight for us.
I have never seen my grandmother move so quickly. Our things were packed and we were in the car in less than ten minutes. I was only 14 but I will never forget the sheer terror of driving off, watching behind us for the flames or the smoke. For once we didn’t listen to the soothing classical masterpieces my grandmother is fond of. The radio stayed on the news channel, just in case. When we made it to Hope we rendezvoused with the other car for the first time in a few hours. My friend’s father stayed with the cabin and the dog. We ate our dinner in hushed silence, hoping that they were ok. Luckily the fires never reached the cabins.
Seeing images of Fort McMurray last night brought all those feelings back. My heart is with everyone both in Fort Mac and the surrounding areas. I have family and friends there, although I have never been myself. Yesterday they were never far from my mind as we received updates on their whereabouts and the fires. Watching video of the evacuees driving down a highway lined in flames made my heart pound. Every day we are reminded that no matter how hard we try to control nature, she has the upper hand every time.
Thank you to all the communities who are opening their doors and their arms to the evacuees. Thank you to all of the fire and rescue crews. Thank you to the people around Canada and the world donating both money and aid.
If you are interested in helping whatever way you can here are a few links to get you started.