Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fires in the Digital Age

Like many people, I have been monitoring coverage of the wildfire(s) in and around Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. These kinds of fires are horrifically fascinating in their sheer size and ability to destroy so much in a short span of time. The descriptions of “hell on earth” certainly seem appropriate.

It wasn’t so long ago that news coverage was limited to what could be found in newspapers, on TV, or over the radio. We could only learn about events through words and images created by others. Today, however, advanced technology, the Internet, and social media create an environment for more personal and in-depth information about any given event, including the Fort McMurray fire.

Case in point: Two videos from home security cameras in Fort McMurray have surfaced that wouldn’t have been possible without advanced technology. These videos are posted at www.cbc.ca but have been widely circulated through mainstream and social media.

Screenshot of security cam footage via www.cbc.ca.
The first, captured remotely via an interior surveillance camera, shows the fire advancing into a home. The other was taken by a doorbell camera and shows firefighters knocking down fire that had worked its way into a hidden space above a covered porch.

Yet another CBC webpage contains multiple videos of the fire as it advanced towards the town – many taken by everyday folks using their cell phones. Just more examples of how modern-day gadgets capture history in ways and from perspectives we couldn’t have imagined just a decade ago.

Screenshot of wildfire advancing into the
town of Fort McMurray via www.cbc.ca.
We are living in a golden age of information for anyone who wants to learn more about just about any topic imaginable. The proliferation of portable camera devices (firefighter helmet cams, GoPros, security cameras, smartphones, etc.) means we will continue to see more up close and personal views of fires and firefighting. These are valuable resources for writers looking to incorporate different aspects of firefighting into their stories, or even to generate new story ideas.


Keep positive thoughts for the residents of Fort McMurray, who face a long road to recovery, and the firefighters who have been working to keep them safe.

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