Fort McMurray pastor and firefighter: confronting 'the Beast'

"How could a good God let such a tragedy happen?" Lucas Welsh was born and raised in Fort McMurray. He serves his hometown as both a firefighter and as a pastor. His faith was sorely tested while battling the Fort McMurray wildfires known as 'the Beast'.

There were many dark moments for Lucas Welsh last year, when he was fighting to save his hometown of Fort McMurray from a raging wildfire.

The fire known as 'The Beast' destroyed more than 2,000 buildings and sent 80,000 people from their homes. 

"It was draining emotionally because you're just going so hard. It felt like a losing battle every step of the way. In that first week, you'd save five houses and there's fifteen more on fire down the block." 

Lucas is both an industrial firefighter with Suncor and a part-time pastor at Fort City Church in Fort McMurray. 

As a firefighter, the flames pushed his skills to their limits. As a pastor, the scope of the disaster challenged his belief in God.

"That experience of being in the city, the losing feeling, and that feeling of how could a good God let such tragedy happen... those questions were good for me. They were hard. They were uncomfortable. It wasn't easy and there were some dark moments."

In the wake of the fire, Lucas began to spend more time in his role as pastor, ministering to people who had lost their homes to the blaze. That meant answering some tough questions.

"I didn't want to be one of those pastors that throws out those pithy little sayings: God works in mysterious ways, everything happens for a reason. I think those are silly things to say.

"I've come to the point where I can't believe everything happens for a reason. I think many terrible and tragic things happen by chance. This city didn't burn for a reason. I think it's our response in those moments, how we respond to the tragedies and disasters in our lives, that has purpose."