by The RAA on January 11, 2017
Our new song, “Beacon Hill,” was inspired by the devastating wildfires that led to a total evacuation of Nils’ onetime home of Fort McMurray, AB earlier this year.
On May 1st 2016, a wildfire started just southwest of Fort McMurray, a city where I’d spent most of my teens growing up. While wildfires aren’t totally uncommon in the region, the dry and above average conditions at the time quickly made the situation unmanageable. By that evening, several neighborhoods were being evacuated and by May 3rd the entire city of more than 80,000 people was being evacuated.
I remember the evening of the evacuation, watching the images on the CBC’s news reports. Beacon Hill was one of the hardest hit areas and some of the footage that came out of there made it look just biblical- real fire and brimstone sort of stuff. The next day I actually heard rumours that the high school I attended burnt down (it didn’t) but because the city was empty, no one could really confirm anything. Everyone feared the worst.
Now, like a lot people who grew up in Fort McMurray, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the place. Growing up there, I knew it wasn’t the last stop for me but my life has become inexorably tied to the place and it’s shaped my life in more ways that I could have ever anticipated.
It’s been a number of years since I’ve been back to Fort McMurray and if I never go back then that will be my choice, but I knew the city would always be there. The idea that maybe there might not be anything to go back to one day wasn’t something that I’d ever prepared myself for.
Oddly enough, after the fire threat had passed and before the evacuation order had been lifted, there were two unrelated explosions one day apart which destroyed several houses and damaged a number of others in the area. Of the three places that I called home while living up there, I lived a stones throw from both of those explosions.
See you soon,