News was out. A fire had swept through communities across Southern Alberta, Canada. I was asked to volunteer as a communications field coordinator with the Red Cross response – my first major deployment. For several years, I had trained and studied for this – I had my bags packed, a communications go-kit in hand and been debriefed on the situation from other disaster responders – I was ready. Or so I thought.
No training could have prepared me for the remarkable story of two young men from a First Nations reserve who had stared the ravaging, smoke-bellowing fire straight in the face and survived. The young men found refuge in the emergency shelter with the Red Cross. I sat down with them; their eyes still blood shot from the thick smoke, their lips quivering as they spoke.
They had just cheated death and hunkered down at the bottom of a riverside cliff while the fire raged around…
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