This week I returned from a nine day travel trip across Alberta and British Columbia.
This journey was unusual because of an unplanned interruption of the rail line by a raging forest fire.
Oh, I know, you're saying 'It couldn't have been that bad... after all, you made it back unscathed, didn't you?"
Well, yes, we made it back but there's a curious lack of concern and knowledge about the fire by my co-workers. I had really expected to hear more concern or perhaps get some emails asking if we were seriously at risk or something.
But although I was posting comments about the trip every day or so, and hinting at the growing concern over the haze and smell of smoke from the fires, no one seemed to pick up on it.
When we got to a small town named Quesnel (I know, nobody's heard of it!) the manager of the train addressed us and told us the government would not let us proceed any further... they were airlifting us out and flying us in two chartered planes over the region of the forest fire. It went well, despite the pervasive smell of smoke that intensified.
But when telling my co-workers about the interruption, they didn't seem to be very concerned at all. They had heard something about a fire, but that's about it.
It wasn't until I produced the newspapers with the front page photos of scarlet and orange flames outlining the hills and mountains at night that the message go through.
Their eyes popped! "You went through that," they asked. "WOW!"
No, not through it.... over it... by day. The train was at risk, and the crew evacuated as well. What they planned to do about the train cars and the engine, I don't know. But I'm sure a dead part of the schedule will allow them to recycle the train and get it back into rotation soon.
We learned about two days after the flight that the people of Lillooet were allowed to return, however still on Evacuation Alert, which means they could be ordered to leave on a moment's notice. Quite a tentative thing for them, I assure you. Even the mayor was not immune. They thought they would loose the town of 2,000 in British Columbia.
So, if I feel that no one was overly concerned about us, it helps to put it into perspective. We lost about a day of rail travel, but gained another half day in Whistler resort. The residents almost lost it all. And they can't escape the smell of smoke now.
Now that's an impact you can't ignore.