The Next Chapter

Aaron Williams chronicles his experiences fighting forest fires in Chasing Smoke

As a veteran firefighter on the West Coast, Aaron Williams has written a gritty and danger-filled account about facing raging wildfires in B.C.
Chasing Smoke is an insider-account of fire season from B.C. firefighter Aaron Williams. (Harbour Publishing)

As a veteran firefighter on the West Coast, Aaron Williams knows a thing or two about raging wildfires. His memoir Chasing Smoke is a gritty and danger-filled account of how one fire season unfolds in B.C.

This interview originally aired on Sept. 17, 2018.

Winds of change

"It's a very tough to get a hold on a wildfire in the sense that winds change, weather changes and certain types of terrain are riskier than others. It's hard to prioritize which fires you're throwing the most resources at, just because there are so many of them — your resources are stretched so thin."

Destructive power

"The book takes place at our base outside Smithers in a little village called Telkwa.​ That year these fires were huge, the biggest the province had seen in three decades. It's pretty incredible to be close to something like that for an extended period of time and see it from start to finish."

Wall of smoke

"I went up in a helicopter one day and, as far as the eye could see, it was just a wall of smoke. We would show up to one branch of that fire and it was so enormous that we couldn't imagine that anything we were doing would make much of a difference. It certainly felt like one of those fires that only a change of season could put an end to."

Aaron Williams' comments have been edited for length and clarity.