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  • Writer's pictureJane Wheeler

Fear and Fires

Fear. It is a nasty and debilitating thing. The Gr. Prairie sky in the picture above is a fire sky.

Fear itself is not wrong, it was hardwired into our bodies by our Creator, to enable us in dangerous or perceived dangerous situations to go into “fight or flight” mode. It is this kind of mode that can cause abnormal strength or to turn and run.

But to live in Flight or Fight over a period of time is to have way too much cortisol flowing through our veins and inevitably if kicked on for extended periods of time or even in severe conditions it will do damage inside of us. Trauma is one of those extreme conditions.

In the Western Provinces, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and into the NWT – people are living in those extreme and traumatic conditions while waiting for the ear-piercing alert tone to come over their phone or a knock on the door saying: “Get out the fire is coming.”

If you have the radio on, every 15 minutes is the commercial reminder of what to pack and what to do if you need to evacuate: have a to go bag ready. It is a never-ending narrative.

No matter which way I turn from my house there is a fire.

I was in the Prayer Room yesterday and the thing on peoples mind is: Fire. People are scared.

The next question becomes: where are we supposed to go? It really is a great question.

The highway to Edmonton was closed for a few days and now that Valleyview is evacuated – it probably is again today.

Gr. Prairie has had a fire concerning it for the past 2 weeks, some people are still evacuated. For me that is east.

North from me lies a fire about 7 kms.

West from me is the Fort St. John fire, the Cleardale fire.

South is a fire under control from me, but from Grande Prairie there is a Grovedale fire south that they are watching closely.

So, no matter which way you look there is a fire in question if you were thinking of heading that way if you got evacuated.

Then there is the smoke and some days “ash” falls from the sky, one day my car has ash all over it. Several folks I know are being really affected by the smoke and their breathing.

I learned just yesterday from a fire fighter that a spark can "jump or travel" up to 2 kms!

There are some huge concerns many of us here are asking: we know of major fires that have never been mentioned or showed up on any fire maps not on any news reports. Hines Creek never showed up on the fire map but they had some homes lost to fires, you can check out more on their towns webpage. Fairview had fires that never showed up on the map – Brian had to drive through 2 fire zones near Rycroft which we never heard about. We know that Pouce Coupe had a fire 2 days ago, now some of these I get, if it is a farmers field on fire – just go put it out. But the Hines Creek one was more severe.

Rainbow Lake – the biggest fire in Alberta right now (According to fire fighter that told us) – no one is talking about it. I went onto the towns Facebook page and website for updates, it is not in our news reports. Why?

The other thing on peoples minds, because most people are not not intelligent is how did all these fires start? It really is a great question. For an area that is dry, honestly we went from snow 2 days before to 27 degrees and warmer, but the ground under the surface does have some moisture to it as told to me by a local farmer.

How do fires start? We had an old burn pile light up on our road a week ago – just came back to life after being burned last fall. It happens, the right wind, the fire smouldering under the ground in the peat. I have another friend who had 2 of these come back to life at their place. But these are the abnormals not the normal. Almost all of the large and devastating fires have been deemed by the fire folks as “people started.” That can mean a careless cigarette, an atv, an out of control campfire, we get it. But to systematically have all these fires start in the past 2 week period, well it makes one scratch their head.

We have had no lightning since last year.

There is something so strange about these fires all starting at the same time, something strange when you look at the map and it is all in the north, and all in the oil patch area, so much so that for the first time – the oil patch is shut down.

We have talked to people who have seen people driving away fast after a fire has started. There is the farmer who went out to see what people were doing on his property and they sped away but left a can of diesel and fire starter on his property. Is anyone else hearing these reports?

In Gr. Prairie yesterday the RCMP arrested a person who was going around lighting fires in town – four fires. Was he working alone and for heaven’s sake, why?

I may get in trouble for this next part but if I do not write it, I may explode from internal combustion.

Brian is on a fire watch, certainly not the first time he has been on one. He moves big equipment and those are needed in fighting fires. Unusually a “Man Up” which is what it is called is a group of people sitting in one spot, they have all the equipment they need and sit and sit and sit and wait until the phone rings and they are needed. They are stationed all over the Peace Country – they get hired by Forest Service, cities, county’s.

This particular watch he is on has been interesting from the start. When they first got there, it was 30 degrees and smoky out. Someone came to talk to the guys and told them that they would not be allowed to sit outside because the air quality index was too high, liability and all. They could sit in their trucks but they could not idle them to keep any air conditioning on.

Now if I was in a shopping center and saw a dog in a car in these temperatures and reported it that person would be fined, and the animal taken away because we all know animals and small children can die in a heated car.

But these guys who are on a fire watch have to sit in their closed vehicles (windows up because of air quality) and supposed to be okay????? This causes my head to shake in absolute wonder….

Their boss offered to bring an air-conditioned trailer for the guys, but they were told no. They sat like that for 3 days in 30 degree heat and then the boss got hold of someone, turns out the municipality was fine with it if Brian’s boss paid for it, not them, and there is now a trailer there for the guys.

There has been no safety meetings or fire update meetings to the guys which is normal on a true “man up”, these guys just sit there. It is interesting and makes a person wonder things.

People ask me how I feel about living in a “fire zone”? Not sure how one is supposed to feel? A normal amount of concern is certainly a reality. I am not fearing, I can only say that part is a gift from God.

I can no more put out a wildfire (unless it was really small) than flap my arms and fly so I have to keep talking to Jesus and reminding Him of what is going on down here. Asking for Him to send the rain and to please stop anyone who might be actually starting these fires. I employ Him to protect people and animals and to strengthen the firefighters.

I remember God’s words: “I will never leave or forsake you.” (that does not mean bad things can’t happen, it means He is with me in good and bad times and for that I am so very grateful!)

God Bless You Immensely if you are living in this crazy fire zone as well. Take care of each other, that has been such a huge blessing to see immediate posts onto Facebook people saying: Hey I have a cattle hauler for those who need it, Hey I have a water truck on standby if you need me; or I have pastureland for campers and animals. The way we stick together and help each other is so amazing and it is the true meaning of humanity and the TRUE spirit of the North and very Canadian!

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