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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Almost Cried Today...

I didn't cry throughout the devistation, awful images of a hometown near mine, nor did I cry with frustration as I heard how cousins and friends lost their homes. And than today I really almost did, well not going to lie there were a couple tears...

I heard Jamie Coutts, fire chief of Slave Lake - describe the heroism of him and his firefighters along side other volunteer firefighters from other towns, including the hamlet of Smiths' volunteer department, descibe the events of May 15, 2011.

Jamie Coutts and volunteer department fought hard with the Smith volunteer fire department since Friday night, when the blaze first started, and on Sunday in the night were joined by Athabasca and many others. And they are still working at it today. Working at it to bring people home. Battling hot spots, being seperated from their families, to bring the families of Slave Lake and area home.

Watching Jamie on youtube made me realize how dangerous things were, how awful and scary they were, for the men and women who volunteered to stay on the ground and try desperately to save the town of Slave Lake. Watching the spotting occur, where the fire jumps and sparks fly meters and meters taken by the wind, to ignite whatever they want to land on. To try and save something that is one minute fine, the next engulfed in flames and trying to take its neighborhood with it. Fire pretty much raining from the sky, smoke so thick you cannot see, and limited resources.

This is what they had to deal with, those volunteers including childhood friends I've known since we were in diapers and my own baby brother. (who will kick my ass for calling him that now that he's 19 and all...) But they put themselves on the front line of battle, in danger - to fight one of the worst fires in the history of this country.

But the way Jamie describes it, is the way they describe it that really hits home. And calling them heros - they shrug it off, because they "did what they had to do." They got people out safely, they fought to save the hospital, and not just the fire department, but emergency crews, RCMP, Special Constables, SRD and more - even civilians, stayed through Sunday night until help arrived and continued to stay to make every effort the could to save things. And although there was no sleep for 33+ hours, no showers, no rest, clean socks or even underwear, and there was no relief until Sunday - those men and women worked so, so, so hard, and luckily everyone got out ok. Luckily no one was taken by that awful wildfire.

As Jamie says there wasn't enough equipment, water, nor enough manpower but instead of giving up they stayed to fight, and we know the hospital still stands today because of them. A lot of the town that is still standing is there today because of them. Volunteers, like we were recently, to sort clothes and collect donations, but those actions did not risk our lives, not like the heroic actions taken by these men and women. The volunteers and workers that stayed and had to watch their family drive away as they stayed bravely, that stayed though the onslaught of ferocious winds and deadly flames - and for that, I think hero just isn't a big enough term.

Also, a moment of silence for the pilot who lost his life in a horrible crash into Slave Lake. Our prayers are with his family.

To help out Jamie and team, as well as other volunteer fire fighters who are volunteering on call for many nights of the year, who risk it during awful weather to go to accident scenes, or battle fires, please visit http://www.thefirewithin.ca/

To donate directly to the Slave Lake Volunteer Fire Department, I have the address. Email me at angie.mcconnell@hotmail.com

For Jamie's interviews, visit



  1. Please don't forget the SRD staff that was out there on the fires too :)

  2. I want to remind everyone of the 1 firefighter in the helicopter who lost his life, lets not forget him and his family who are suffering. Lets not let his sacrifice be in vain, lets remember him and the sacrifice his family in Montreal made.

  3. I really appreciate Jamie... did you know his teenaged son Ryan was one of the volunteers? I can't imagine how stressful that was for his wife & daughter...