Saturday, November 30, 2019

"Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir" by Aaron Williams

Wayne and I are on a Snowbird RV Adventure in California (click here). We've driven through smokey haze as strong winds drove flames through tinder dry foothills.

British Columbia's fire season typically runs from July when the forests dry out through October when fall rains arrive.

Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir by Aaron Williams (Harbour Publishing, 2018) seemed an appropriate reading choice considering what was happening around us.

Aaron Williams was a BC firefighter with the Telkwa Rangers from 2006 to 2014. Chasing Smoke focuses on the 2014 forest fire season, his last.

Ash layer along Powell Lake shore.
The last major fires along Powell Lake were in 1915 and 1918. We found evidence of the ash layer while digging on shore near our Powell Lake float cabin.

Goat Island disappeared in the smoke.
We do get thick smoke that blows west over the coast range from fires in BC's interior. Everywhere, firefighters and other first responders are putting their lives on the line for all of us.

Through his memoir, Aaron takes us through a summer of preparing for and fighting forest fires. You meet the Telkwa Rangers and learn how they work together to contain some of BC's worst fires like the Euchiniko Lakes fire, the China Nose fire, and two tours on the Chelaslie River fire that became the third largest in BC.

Training begins in May with a Rookie Week for the new recruits, some of whom are students looking for a summer of adventure and a way to earn money. Not an easy way for sure.  In telling the story, he gives you a good feel for life at base camp, in camps where firefighters stay during fourteen-day deployments and on the line fighting and mopping up after fires. Life is filled with highs and lows, and a lot of camaraderie in-between. Here's an informative video by CBC's The National.


As the fire season winds down, so does Aaron's career. You don't know what will happen next, but you do know that he will become an author with a strong voice and the ability to carry a tale to it's end.  

Chasing Smoke is available online at Harbour Publishing and Amazon. It's also available in bookstores and Kindle format.


If you want to read about BC fires from the perspective of people living through them, here are two recommendations. One is written by an author I've become acquainted with, Chris Czajkowski. The other she co-authored with a friend who lived through the same fire.

Wildfire in the Wilderness is by Chris Czajkowski (Harbour Publishing, 2006). You can read more about his amazing woman on her blog, Wilderness Dweller. The book tells about the life Chris lived in a remote cabin/resort she built called Nuk Tessli and how she lived through and was evacuated from her wilderness home during the Lonesome Lake fire of 2004.


Captured by Fire is co-authored by Chris Czajkowski and Fred Reid (Harbour Publishing, 2019). In 2017, fire returned to the region at Kleena Kleene and Colwell Lake. By now, Chris was living in an off-the-grid homestead. She and her friend, Fred Reid, also a homesteader, both refused to evacuate during the massive fire. The book alternates between their stories about how the fire affected their lives, homes and how it was fought.


There's also the monthly Book Review Club for teen/young adult and adult fiction over at Barrie Summy's blog.

Also shared with Your the Star at Stone Cottage Adventures. -- Margy

18 comments:

  1. The cover of Chasing Smoke is very impressive. Forest fires are so awful and the firefighters have a hard job. Great photos.

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    1. It was a terrible fire year. The video was perfect to go with this book. It showed almost all of the actions they took as forest firefighters. - Margy

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  2. Forest fires are horrible. We've had a few around here. So much damage.
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. I guess they happen everywhere. Look at the terrible fires burning in the Amazon jungle where it is very wet. - Margy

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  3. I find this subject fascinating and have read several books on the subject on fire disasters always end in much loss of life. The worst were when much of Minnesota was forested and lumbering was rampant in the late 19th century...

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    1. There's no place immune from fire damage. - Margy

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  4. Interesting subject!!!!

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    1. Living near fire danger areas makes it even more interestng. - Margy

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  5. Margy - we live in an area that is commonly affected by fires and susceptible to them as well, so these will be good reads for me. Thanks for the recommendations!

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    1. I also found the video very informative. When Chris Czajkowski did her slide presentation at the book reading it showed one of the water bladders they set up at her home. - Margy

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  6. The way things are going, I'm afraid every year is going to be a bad fire year somewhere in western North America. The books do sound interesting.

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    1. At least California is getting some rain right now. I heard one of the major fires was now 90% contained. - Margy

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  7. I wish this blight of fires out west were fiction. These books sound like good reading.

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  8. The books look interesting, but I am glad I don't live where there is a wildfire season!
    (We have hurricane season instead, but I am not near as afraid of hurricanes as I am of fire).
    Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. I grew up in earthquake country. I'm not sure which is more scary, that, fire or a hurricane. - Margy

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  9. Fascinating and scary. TFS.

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    1. We hope we never have a fire near our cabin. - Margy

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We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy