This summer was an incredibly active fire season for Northern Alberta, one that I got to see up close and personal. I spent almost 40 days working on the Chuckegg Creek fire near High Level. The entire experience was incredible, mind blowing, life changing… I don’t even know how to explain it. I learned so much, met so many incredible people and so saw many incredible things. There is no way that I can even touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to writing about what it was like to be deployed to that fire, but I would like to share some of my favourite photos from the experience. I will caption each one to give you a glimpse into what it was like to be there.
I found out I was headed to High Level only a couple of hours before I left. Of course I knew about the fire, but it didn’t look like it was in the cards that I would go. Then all of a sudden I was asked how soon I could be ready. My partner for the trip up left Calgary around midnight and picked me up in Edmonton at ~3am,
We stopped in Whitecourt on our way up, fueling the truck up as the sun rose.
I made it to High Level on the day that my fiance was leaving on days off. He did come back while I was still up there, so we actually got to work on the same fire, however many many kilometers apart.
I spent my first day in High Level hot spotting around the town of High Level
By the point that I got up to the fire, the threat had shifted from High Level to a small town called La Crete, so to La Crete we went to set up structural protection on threatened homes there.
For the first week that I was in La Crete, the town was under an evacuation order, so it was inhabited basically just by police and firefighters
A large portion of our days in La Crete were spent patrolling our area, and during our patrols we fed and watered the animals left behind by the evacuees.
The evacuation order for La Crete was lifted just before Canada Day, so the Canada Day parade was a celebration for many reasons. The fire crews working to protect the town were invited to participate in the parade, so we decorated our trucks accordingly.
I got to see and work with some incredible equipment, like these bad boys.
I even got to drive this one!
I was blown away by how beautiful the area was up around La Crete and High Level. This is the Peace River
Pump site on the Peace River
Hot spotting is the art of locating deep burning fires and dousing them so they don’t pop up unexpectedly, re-igniting the fire. It is messy, messy work.
Did I mention it was messy?
The smokey sunsets were incredible
Helicopters were our eyes and ears for fire behavior
Due to the catastrophically dry conditions, and some crazy weather, we got to see some very extreme fire behaviors, including fire whirls and raining chunks of embers, and even charred debris, like this leaf.
Our very last day in High Level, it finally started to rain. After months with nothing, the raid felt incredible.