Edmonton

Firefighter monument commissioned by Fort McMurray takes on new significance in wake of the fire

Just weeks before fire tore through Fort McMurray, the town commissioned a massive statue to commemorate the work of local firefighters.

The two-tonne bronze sculpture will be installed in the centre of Fort McMurray

Ontario artist Tim Schmalz working on a monument for Fort McMurray fire fighters. (Supplied)

Just weeks before a wildfire tore through Fort McMurray, the town commissioned a massive statue to commemorate the work of local firefighters.

Now the piece has taken on a new significance for the artist.

"I find it very providential," said artist Tim Schmalz, who accepted the commission to craft the two-tonne bronze sculpture only two weeks before the fire.

He said he was shocked when the entire population was evacuated.

The plight of the first responders and evacuees has compelled him to put everything he has into the sculpture, which will eventually sit in the centre of town.

"It's pretty fitting for the sculpture to be right in the centre of Fort McMurray after this," Schmalz said.

A model of what the finished monument will look like. (Supplied)

The piece, called A Firefighter's Prayer, is based on the Maltese cross, the universal symbol for firefighters. Schmalz's work often involves religious themes. This one will be no exception.

"I can't think of firefighters without comparing them to saints," he said.

Schmalz said the sculpture will be ready to be installed by September. He hopes by then residents will have returned, and be back on their feet.

"This will be a very fitting monument, not only to celebrate the firefighters' courage and sacrifice, but also the courage of Fort McMurray."

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