It can be hard to put the Fort McMurray fire in its proper context.
The sheer size of it—and the incredible amount of time that experts say it will continue to burn—can be hard to wrap your head around if you’ve never been to Fort McMurray. And likewise, it can be hard to fathom just how incredible the work of firefighters, both local and ported in from elsewhere, has been. They managed to save 85 per cent of the buildings in a city bathed in flame, including the hospital, municipal buildings and all of the schools—2,400 buildings lost, 25,000 saved—but it can be hard to feel emotion over these numbers.
And so it has been gripping—and sometimes heartbreaking—to see camera footage of what it looks like inside the evacuated area, where fire crews continue to spar with the blaze. Maclean’s reporter Jason Markusoff went inside the burn line to see the devastation and its fallout. But there were others who saw what the fire looked like at its raging peak. From the safety of an evacuation centre, James O’Reilly watched fire crackle, lick, then swallow whole his Fort McMurray home from his iPhone, which he had linked to a security camera in his living room. Elsewhere, Mark Stephenson—a Fort McMurray firefighter in the middle of what would be a long day of work—took a moment to shoot a video of his home when he found it engulfed in flame. (When asked by his captain whether he needed any time, Stephenson replied: “No…let’s go to work.”)
But footage provided by Ken Bell to the Edmonton Journal shows in clear relief just what firefighters’ valiant courage looks like.
In a video captured by a camera on the porch, you can see the team methodically hose down the deck, to wet it in case the fire crept down. You can see the team locate and douse any hotspots they can see. And when the fire travelled onto the roof—it appears it crawled up the column—you can see the crew of firefighters acting quickly to expose the blaze to face it head-on.
It was, no doubt, just one of many house fires that the crew had to staunch that day. But the proof is in the other houses around it, the ones untouched by fire. And it’s one Canadians can see—giving insight into what their heroism looked like.