FORT McMURRAY, ALBERTA: It was a story that had to be told.
At around this time last year, a wildfire was scorching its way through the woodlands of northern Alberta. It eventually engulfed the city of Fort McMurray, forcing the evacuation of 88,000 citizens and destroying 2,400 buildings. Five hundred thousand hectares were consumed en route.
While locals were fleeing the city, firefighters were rushing into it. One of those emergency responders was Jerron Hawley, originally from Port Hood.
Hawley’s story can now be read in the recently released Into The Fire: The Fight to Save Fort McMurray.
“Even now, as I read some of the passages in that book, it’s a tough thing to do — to go back and relive it,” Hawley said. “But at the same time, it’s therapeutic in a way, reading and remembering exactly what we went through back then.
“Everyone back home knew the magnitude of what happened, and the support I had from people back home was out of this world.”
Hawley is one of three writers responsible for the book, as he wrote it with fellow firefighters Graham Hurley and Steve Sackett.
The Port Hooder recently talked to The Reporter about the text.
Writing a book was something he had never planned to do, he said. However, the story of what took place in Fort McMurray — especially as told from an on-the-ground perspective — was a tale that needed telling.
The book is available wherever finer books are sold, including on-line platforms like amazon.ca.
Complementing the words on the page are over 90 full-colour photos detailing what took place over the six days Hawley and company fought the flames.
The book more than exceeds his expectations, he said.
“We just wanted to get our story across as best as we could, and I think we accomplished that,” he said.
“We wanted to give credit to the people who deserve it, and get the story out.”
Hawley, a member of the Fort McMurray Fire Department, lives year round in the city, and he said people there are still getting over the ordeal. He added that the effort to rebuild after the fire shows the heart of what the city is made of.
“I’m happy I was there to help, and I feel honoured people were there to help me,” he said.