Rachel glanced uneasily in the rear-view. The traffic piled up behind her as the last remaining hold-outs rushed to flee the advancing flames. The wildfire was currently chewing its way through the western edge of town at a terrifying pace. A gas station exploded, belching out a thunder-head of rolling, black smoke which quickly choked the sun from the sky. A cacophony of car horns, screeching tires, and the steady hiss-pop of boiling tree sap floated through the unnatural dusk. The sounds merged into a song of anxiety riddled trepidation to which there was no off-switch. She numbly gripped the steering wheel while silently praying for the traffic to move faster.
When she finally rounded the bend in the road, she found herself bumper to bumper with the stalled, late-model sedan causing the backup. The empty vehicle, which had been pushed off as far as possible to the side of the road, stuck out nearly four feet into her lane. Beyond that, however, traffic began to pick up pace. Rachel let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, and navigated her way around the abandoned car.
In less than ten minutes she’d managed to put another quarter-mile between her and the burning town. A herd of deer broke through the woods and bounded across the roadway, forcing her to slam down on her brakes. She watched, slack-jawed, while the animals jumped past vehicles and over guard rails as they fled; their smoking hides leaving a ribbon of acrid smoke in their wake. The smell of burning fur and wood smoke warred with each other as the deer disappeared into the trees lining the opposite side of the highway.
Dread pooled, cold and oily, in the pit of her stomach. Slowly she turned her head towards the direction the herd had come from. Small brush fires were breaking out along the green strip – courtesy of hot ash falling from a bruised and smoke-stained sky. Vicious harbingers of what was bearing down on them in the unmistakable orange glow flickering less than 200 feet into the woods. Somewhere in the back of her mind, a local news story boiled up in her memory. She could hear the stress in the anchor’s words as he relayed the evacuation plans if the danger and swiftness of the wildfires couldn’t be contained. The temperatures had continued to soar, though, and no rain had fallen. The result was a feast of kindling on which the hungry flames now gorged.
Panic flooded through her and she ground the gas pedal to the floor of her beat up Subaru. As she raced down the highway, the discordant melody of mankind trying to save themselves from certain destruction continued to play on.
The above may seem like a dystopic opening to an eco-fiction novel where climate change has run amok. However, it was actually written using information obtained from various news sources and personal accounts – less the deer, who were used for dramatic effect* – regarding the out of control wild-fire currently burning the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada to the ground.
This isn’t science fiction. This is science fact. And it’s one of the scenarios that will become more common throughout the world as global temperatures continue to rise.
Here is a video uploaded to YouTube, that shows what these residents are facing:
We can either accept a fate similar to “Rachel’s,” or we can work on changing that future.
We have the knowledge, we have the science, we have the technology. So what’s holding us back and, perhaps more importantly, why are we being held back?
What processes can we put in place, or change, that can help curb the likelihood of scenarios such as these from occurring? Let me know your thoughts – both on the story and on the questions above – in the comments!
Please consider donating to the Canadian Red Cross here –>Fort McMurray Relief
*Although the deer scene was written into the story purely for dramatic effect, it is important to remember that deer do live in those forests, making this scenario not only possible, but absolutely plausible.