It's been a little bit over a week since this happened and I just wanted to recount a recent experience we had in our neighbourhood.
On the evening of August 3rd, 2010, a recent Coronal Mass Ejection was going to hit the atmosphere. In an attempt to photograph some of the Aurora effects we were expected to see, I hit the road after midnight and headed a little bit south of the city. Unfortunately, nature conspired against this and it remained cloudy through the next hour and a half or so. Of course, it didn't really help that I could still see Calgary's light pollution from where I was. Disappointed that I couldn't get any cool Aurora shots, I headed home.
I got back somewhere between 01:30 and 02:00, realizing that I would be pretty run down for work the next day. As I was getting into bed, I heard these little crackling, popping noises coming from outside and shrugged them off as possibly kids setting off firecrackers or something. Then I heard a really loud BOOM and sat up thinking, "I … don't think that's a firecracker." I went to the windows wondering if I could see anything. Nothing out the front of the house, so I went to the back (looking northward), and saw an incredibly scary sight!
The fire department got there in short order and the police went from house to house getting everyone to evacuate. We gathered at the parking lot of the shopping complex down the street and could only watch as they worked hard to get it under control. A city bus was brought in for shelter and the local 24-hour Sobeys brought around some coffee and water for everyone.
Thankfully the houses on fire were safely evacuated and no one was hurt.
At around 4am, we were told that we should start to make preparations to find another place to stay as the air quality became very poor and unsafe. With our house being on the opposite side of the crescent, we were allowed to run home to grab a few things and started to look into where we could go for the night. We went back to the parking lot and ended up staying around for a little longer. Little by little, the police were allowing people to go back home, starting with the houses that were furthest away from the fire. We were very fortunate that we ended up being able to return home just after 5am.
The next day, we went to take a look at the aftermath of this crazy night. The fire inspectors were looking over the buildings and the street was still lined with other fire department vehicles as well police cars and local news crews.
A very sad day indeed for the families affected. If you would like to help out, they can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, it seems the fire department wasn't able to conclusively find the cause of the fire.
Cranston Fire Flickr Set