A flickering flame viewed by millions each year grew from ember to spark in an Edmonton fireplace 30 years ago.
Yes, we're talking about the famous Shaw Cable fire log, an annual holiday viewing tradition for many.
According to Carmen Salerno, the in-house creative director at Shaw Cable, the idea came to light in 1986 when a then-Capital Cable vice-president in Edmonton was looking to fill his broadcast requirements.
"The channel ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so he wanted to program something and at the same time allow his employees to take some time off to be with their families on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day," Salerno said.
The original fireplace on display belonged to one of the show's local programmers.
"From that small ember (that's pun number one) has really grown over the years," Salerno said.
For the first few years, only customers in Edmonton were able to bask in the fire log's digital glow. As Shaw expanded, however, other community channel managers began their own fireplace shows, Salerno said.
Eventually, the company decided to unify the fire feeds into a single national burning flame.
Today, the fire log even has its own Twitter account with more than 12,000 followers and is available as an app on Android and iOS.
The fire spreads
Given decades of technological advancement, Shaw Cable decided to re-record the fire log in 2014.
"We just felt it was finally time to do a new and improved fire log," Salerno said.
Following weeks of location scouting, the perfect 100-year-old hearth was found in a cabin in North Vancouver.
"We just thought it was picture perfect for the next generation of the log," he said.
The only problem: when they first lit the fire, the flue failed to draw the smoke upwards.
"So within about 30 seconds, this very quaint but small cabin completely filled with smoke, so we were opening windows."
In the end, it took the crew about 90 minutes to fix the problem and resume filming.
The man behind the flannel
Nearly as famous as the flaming log itself is the flannel-clad arm that occasionally reaches into the shot to stir the flames.
The identity of that arm's owner is a closely guarded secret, Salerno said.
"We kind of keep his identity a secret. He's kind of shy and a bit of a humble guy and he's not really interested in extolling his celebrity status."
Over the years, numerous people have called to ask questions about the fire tender, wondering who he is and if he's married, Salerno said.
"There's just a certain lore and mystique to the poker man," Salerno said. "I think a lot of people try to imagine or extrapolate the kind of individual that he is."
Salerno was able to provide the following information about the mysterious poker, however:
Likes: Flannel, gloves, campfire smell and log rides
Dislikes: Singed arm hair, hangnails, splinters and ember burns
Salerno also confirmed the pokerman is single, but cautioned that the fire log is his number one commitment.