Despite the threat to their own homes, some of which were actually destroyed in last week’s wildfire inferno, Fort McMurray firefighters stood their ground on the front lines for a greater cause – saving the city.
President of the Fort McMurray Firefighters Union and Fire Captain Nick Waddington spoke with Jon McComb about the experience.
Waddington says the fire developed so fast that within an hour of noticing the fire he realized they needed to start evacuating.
LISTEN to full interview here:
No thought of winning or losing
“We just fought. I’ve said many times, you don’t really know what you’re thinking or feeling at the time – we’re just doing – we’re just acting and doing whatever we can to get this fire out.”
He says looking back it’s inspiring to think about what people did to fight the fire.
“We’ve had an amazing support network. The guys that were on that fire – we’ve just grown so close together – we’ve just been able able to lean on each other.”
The most difficult decisions came at the beginning when their resources were limited.
“As the days proceeded the decisions got a lot easier because we had enough trucks to fight every fire that was in the region.Those initial few hours, we had to make tough decisions. You had to really stop and think about ‘what’s savable’, what was our best chance at saving areas, and other areas we couldn’t deploy units to, we just didn’t have enough resources.”
Waddington describes the unpredictability of the fire in the first two days.
“With embers flying in the air,(and) the entire region being a tinderbox, one ember could land on another part of town, and just be a small column of smoke. “
But within an hour, says Waddington, that small wisp of smoke could quickly turn into another raging inferno while crews were busy fighting something else.
He says none of his colleagues feel like their job is done, and they’re going to do everything they can to help re-build the city.
“Fort McMurray is an amazing community and has a lot of people that are going to call it home, and that’s not going to change.”