Chasing Smoke author reading by Aaron Williams
Aaron Williams reads from his book Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir
Thursday, October 12
Smithers Public Library
The 2016 Fort McMurray fire was one of the most devastating
reminders of the impacts of forest fire in recent history. Destroying
more than 2,400 homes, and mounting out of control for two
months, it resulted in the largest-ever wildfire evacuation in Alberta.
In British Columbia, the worst fire season since 1958 raged during July and
August 2017, sparking nearly 1,000 fires and requiring emergency crews
to be flown in from Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and beyond. Across
Canada, varied terrain and changing weather systems make each summer a
risk for similar devastation.
What is it like to be on the frontlines of firefighting? Chasing Smoke
is an enthralling insider-account of how a fire season unfolds, as told by
experienced firefighter, Aaron Williams.
Williams offers a tangible window into the intensely physical, highadrenalin
lifestyle shared by his crew of eccentrics, all eager to be on the
front line. He shares what it’s like to work 16-hour days in an apocalyptic
landscape, where smoke is so thick your snot runs black, and crewmembers
drink ten litres of water a day to stay hydrated. How it feels to make a
stupid mistake and singe your beard in front of your crew, or spend hours
hosing a spot the size of a queen mattress, and still not extinguish the
From the “curated gauntlet of abuse” during rookie week, to the last
length of hose rolled up at the end of the burn season, Williams chronicles
a firefighter’s seasonal existence. Chasing Smoke interweaves the history,
mechanics and politics of firefighting, sharing the micro-world of the small
crews who willingly put their lives on the line, time after time.
Aaron Williams is a seasoned firefighter, who has fought wildfires
across Canada and parts of the United States including British Columbia,
Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Idaho. He is also an accomplished writer,
with bylines in The Globe and Mail, Halifax Chronicle Herald and the Vancouver
Observer. He is currently working on an MFA in creative non-fiction writing
at King’s College in Halifax, NS.