Public reading in Quesnel by author Aaron Williams: wildfire memoir

Author, Aaron Williams, appears in Books and Company, Quesnel, for a public reading of his wildfire memoir

Prince Rupert-born author Aaron Williams knows what it’s like to be on the front lines of a wildfire.

His book, Chasing Smoke, is a captivating memoir that details the little-known, dangerous experiences of firefighters.

Williams has been fighting fires for 10 years in both the U.S. and Canada, and in 2014, he made the decision to chronicle the challenges of a fire season and shed some light behind the scenes. He provides raw exposure to the history, mechanics and politics, the grueling training, and what a day is like in the life of a firefighter.

The book highlights several of the arduous incidents that pushed Williams and his crew to the limits, each one a gripping account of the most extreme days.

“The three of us tumble our way to the bottom of the ravine … there’s devil’s club everywhere, mosquitos swarm our faces and we trip over unseen roots and step through rotten logs.

“His face is flushed, glistening. He collapses onto his knees and … after a minute of rest, he looks up at me. ‘You got any water?’ he asks, like it’s his dying wish.”

Williams’ focus was also to portray the relationships built between members of the crew and introduces readers to several engaging characters.

“When you put 20 people together and you add in long periods of exhaustion, the social dynamic gets very interesting. That to me is what the book is,” said Williams.

It’s been an eventful year for Williams. He was in another set of boots on the ground fighting the fires this summer in Williams Lake and the Chilcotin area, and has obtained his Master of Fine Arts in creative non-fiction. He is now launching his first book.

Williams spending the next month driving through B.C., visiting venues in eight different cities to read excerpts from Chasing Smoke.

He is set to stop in at Books and Company in Quesnel on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m., offering a rare opportunity to hear the story first hand from the very person who experienced it.

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