By Norm Richards
I'm currently following the reports on the expanding Forrest fire that brought devastation to home owners and residents of the northern city of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The city of eighty thousand have had to be evacuated in a very fast order this week. The escape from the city put enormous stress on officials to manage a safe flow out of vast numbers of people in a moments notice. How do you get people out with only one road in and out? It has to be done.
Aircraft, buses and vehicles moved all at the same time to leave the danger zone. Of course, this is perfect television programming. People wanna know. People wanna see, right now, first hand and keep the stories coming! I know. I helped get those kind of stories on the air back in 1997, during the threat of flood on the city of Winnipeg including southern Manitoba's communities. The rushing flow of the Red River was headed north straight into the largest populated areas then. Our television broadcast team was assembled ahead of time since we knew the waters were rising fast. We covered it. Afterwards, a kind of post apocalyptic sensitivity has remained in my heart and soul since that time.
This experience is mirrored by a major Forrest fire event today in northern Alberta. The difference is, I'm not directly involved in a broadcast team covering this emergency. But, I see the relationship of this disaster in terms of producing stories on a broadcast team. I can't believe it! It's happened again. A big story, massive numbers of people involved and affected. I'm glued to the reports despite the tension it creates on my brain. Early this week and even before the federal government announced matching dollars to the Canadian Red Cross, I donated a fair sum for my humble means. This, rather than feeling helpless. It's heart warming to hear of people donating money and goods to the displaced.
To ad to the potential stress, I have asthma. I've suffered attacks like never before this season. It's been bad and I think it's part of the quality or lack of, the weather condition this spring. I don't know broadly how others are affected but I've spoken to some. Now, I'm concerned about the flow of smoke toward us from northern Alberta. I don't think I will be able to tolerate much of the smoke's encroachment. We'll have to see. Meanwhile, here I am, watching the television reports, torn between being unable to help and the need to protect my own health and well being. The challenges we faced in 1997, keeps me engaged with the people of Fort McMurray and the neighbouring indigenous communities threatened by fire.