Aaron Williams was a firefighter for nine seasons, and one of which he chronicles in his debut book Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir. (Graeme Tabor)

From the forest to the page, firefighter reads to Rupert

Aaron Williams visits his hometown for a book tour of Chasing Smoke on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.

Much of Aaron Williams’s life has been defined by trees. His father was a logger, Williams himself was a forest firefighter for 10 seasons and, now, the words of his debut novel Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir are printed on their pages.

This year has been a big one for Williams. He was finishing his Master’s degree in creative non-fiction at the University of King’s College in Halifax when he got the call — Harbour Publishing wanted to print his memoir. A flurry of editing and a graduation date followed, then fire season started. Now, Williams is returning to his hometown of Prince Rupert on tour for his first book.

It’s intimidating, Williams said, to do a reading in front of people he knows. His family and some high school friends are planning to attend the event in Rupert.

“You feel extra pressure,” he said. “It is really important to me. I think people who grew up in towns or cities of that size feel a strong affinity to their hometown. I’m certainly one of those people.”

His book chronicles the 2014 fire season, which Williams thought would be his last. He’d been a firefighter for nine seasons, and the gig was getting old. Six months a year was a long time to spend away from his girlfriend in Halifax.

“Forest firefighting is one of those jobs that, for the most part, you just do for a bit in your twenties. It’s not a lifestyle that you want to have as you get older and settle down,” Williams said.

“I really loved the job and it was going to be really tough to leave. I think that one way of making it easier was if I catalogued it.”

It was at the suggestion of Don Sedgwick, who was then the executive director of the Master of Fine Arts program at King’s, that Williams began writing about his days on a firefighting crew.

“I met with him for coffee, because I was interested in the program. I was asking him some questions and he was pretty blunt. He said, ‘If you want to be a writer, you just have to write more. You have to write every single day.’ And so I really took that to heart. That was just before I went back for that [2014] season, so it motivated me,” Williams said.

“I’ll always be grateful for that conversation we had. I think that was life-changing.”

This past summer, Williams read from Chasing Smoke at the Halifax library and thanked Sedwick, who was in the crowd.

Although Williams’s book details his last season of firefighting, he returned to battle wildfires for another season in 2017. He doesn’t rule out firefighting in the future.

“It was exciting, and something I knew how to do. It always feels good when you have real skills that you can offer the world.”

Williams will read from his debut book, Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir, and answer questions from the audience at the Prince Rupert Public Library on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.

“We’re very happy to have a local author reading here at the library,” said chief librarian Joe Zelwietro. “It helps people understand that they can do what they love, have success both here and away. We hope it’ll be an inspiration for other younger writers as well.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Requests for proposals for the first stage of a water treatment facility project have been issued by the City of Prince Rupert on Oct. 26. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Water treatment facility project in Prince Rupert enters first phase

Prince Rupert seeks proposals for assessment of water quality supply and treatment options

A Shoppers Drug Mart employee in Prince Rupert has tested positive for COVID-19 the company confirmed on Oct. 26. The last day the employee worked was Oct. 17. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Employee of Prince Rupert Shoppers Drug Mart tests positive for COVID-19

No COVID-19 public exposures alerts issued by Northern Health Authority for Prince Rupert

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

North Coast BC NDP MLA Incumbent is seen with her wife Andrea Wilmot and their son Lua, as well as their dog Duncan. Preliminary results on election night Oct. 24 show Rice is in for a third term. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Most Read