After having often watched, mainly for the education mind you, Quest for Fire, in which fire was revered and carried about in some pre-historic gadget to guard an eternal flame long before our trusty Bic was around, now I’m finding fire to be somewhat more of a nuisance.
Forest fires blazing out of control, causing massive evacuations, used to be a rare occurrence. No-one was ever really close enough to feel the heat or smell the smoke. Then the big hydro project came along and the first time anyone ever felt the hot flames flicker into their world, a summer that reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit, five more than 9/11.
The unbearable heat, already causing much anguish to the imported workers from the south and from Italy (many workers came from Sicily, most went back), helped create an angry force of seething discontent. The heat, so hot that you could melt cheddar on a plate of cold greasy poutine in the shade, ignited a raging firestorm that caused panic amongst hardened labourers, and brought the giant of development to its knees in helpless defeat.
The workers, meantime, continued their mayhem and the authorities carried out a frantic evacuation with squadrons of jumbo jets leaving the area, the flight attendants caringly doling out cold cinquantes to the needy and the dehydrated.
That was first time contemporary Cree were exposed to fire at such a large scale and so close to home. Of course, one could only imagine the scope of the evacuation and the brute force used to quell the fire, while the population equal to that of the entire Cree Nation left for a day or two.
Today, fires are starting earlier every spring, and summer has yet to the change the green grass and leaves to brown – not from the cold, but from lack of water. Last summer, the leaves turned in July and fire reports were monitored in the same fashion as the weather report. Not so surprisingly, bad weather meant relief from the heat.
I look out my window today and thank God that it’s raining again and will rain for the next two weeks, or at least cloudy from dusk to dawn with real clouds made up of hydrogen and oxygen and not acid or sulphur.
Fires do have their benefits, however. When the smoke lifts to the skies, it eventually meets up with cold air and the microscopic ashes cool down and collect water molecules, which amazingly, instantly become clear, clean, charcoal-filtered water as it rains down. Of course, tire fires do the same thing, but the rain tastes like it’s been hanging around for a good year in the upper atmosphere before raining down in the suburbs.
As for the people who fight fires, retreat seems to be the option these days, as fires creep closer and closer to the communities and more and more people leave their homes for an unknown future. The communities, facing a fire in the back yard for the umpteenth time, have become conditioned to carrying out their emergency civil duties and are always carried out in a fashion that will be forever remembered and thanked for.
So far, no one has succumbed to the heat and smoke and I am hoping it stays that way.