Books·Canadian

Chasing Smoke

An insider-account of fire season from B.C. firefighter Aaron Williams.

Aaron Williams

British Columbia's weather and geography — hot dry summers, steep terrain and population density in forested areas — make it one of the most difficult places in the world to fight forest fires.

Chasing Smoke is an enthralling insider-account of how a fire season unfolds. Experienced firefighter Aaron Williams offers a tangible window into the intensely physical, high-adrenaline lifestyle shared by his crew of eccentrics, all eager to be on the front line. Williams shares what it's like to work 16-hour days in an apocalyptic landscape, where the smoke is so thick your snot runs black and you need to drink 10 litres of water a day. What it's like to make a stupid mistake and singe your beard in front of your crew, or spend hours hosing a spot the size of a queen mattress and still not extinguish the burn. What it's like to hear a tree fall, a co-worker's shout, and imagine the worst.

From the "curated gauntlet of abuse" that makes up rookie week, until the last length of hose is rolled up at the end of the burn season, Williams chronicles the seasonal existence of a firefighter, all while examining the wider world of firefighting — interweaving the history, mechanics and politics — as well as the micro-world of the small crew who willingly put their lives on the line. (From Harbour Publishing)

Interviews with Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams talks about his book Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now