As many of my readers are local I don’t really need to elaborate, but for those reading from far away geographically or far away temporally, here’s the deal: it’s been a helluva week in our little province.
About a week ago, amidst a very early spring and unseasonably warm temperatures, forest fire season began in earnest. Fires are actually pretty normal. We live and play among the boreal forest, sweeping vistas of beautiful conifers. And occasionally those forests NEED to burn. It’s part of their natural cycle, though we humans do what we can to minimize the damage and reduce the intersection of our civilization with the flames.
But a week ago a very large fire swept upon the northeastern region of the province: it is a place relatively few travel for anything but work and most around the world might only know by the controversy it generates as one of the economic blast furnaces of our nation. And at the centre is a small city known by most everyone as Fort Mac with a population of a meager but mighty 90,000 of the types of independent folks who build a community, for better or worse, at the fringes of the hustle-and-bustle of our otherwise urban civilization, perhaps seeking their fortunes in a frustratingly unstable resource economy, or maybe just a quieter life in a northern town with just that single highway in and out. The same types of people who through history have shed a bit of their own comfort to push the boundaries, who settled the places we now call home & built the first bits of these cities we now take for granted.
A week ago the media lit up with the images of Fort Mac in flames. The entire city was evacuated. Tens of thousands of people fleeing with a handful of possessions down that same highway as they left behind only an inferno and uncertainty. Our city, the nearest major centre, opened its arms and though individually we can’t claim it was much, collectively we did what we could to cushion their landing.
Now, you may be wondering what a five klick fun run has to do with a forest fire & the city it evacuated.
Admittedly, standing in a grassy field in the sun surrounded by hundreds of sneaker-footed runners, it doesn’t seem like much at all. But then there are stories that bubble out: like that the Northern Lights Triathlon Club (based out of Fort Mac) has made a showing, or that a bunch of running gear was donated by a local athletic store (because who grabs their training shoes when they are fleeing their home?) or that five hundred people raised over eight thousand bucks for the Red Cross.
And then too it’s just that sense of solidarity: we’re all here beating down some asphalt and getting on with the run. Sharing the trails. Sharing the moment. Restoring a bit of normal, if only just a bit.