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Smoke, fire and coincidence


February 6, 2009
By Laura King

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Feb. 6, 2009

You may have read in this week’s newspapers about firefighters in
Baddeck, N.S., who rescued the driver and five passengers from an Acadian Lines bus that left the Trans-Canada Highway and plunged into the icy Baddeck River.



I didn’t
see this tidbit in the news stories, but sources in N.S. have said that all 20
volunteer firefighters in Baddeck – a beautiful town on the other side of the
Bras d’Or Lakes from my family’s perch in Ben
Eoin – were meeting at the fire hall and got to the scene within minutes of
being paged out. By all accounts, firefighters did a wonderful job, cheered on
by dozens and dozens of spectators who lined the closed highway.

In
another coincidence, my husband was on the phone with his parents in Windsor
Junction, N.S., shortly after
9 p.m. Tuesday night. His mom mentioned
the incident – but it hadn’t yet been on the news wire (we know, because he
works for the news wire!). My husband’s sister lives in
New Brunswick but used to live in Baddeck. She
had gotten a call from a friend in Baddeck telling her about the incident. She
then told her mom, who told my husband, who told the wire service. News
travels.   

Yesterday,
here in southern
Ontario, was the coldest day of the
winter thus far. Colder than
Winnipeg, which is to say, cold enough to
end all conversations about how cold it is. And on days like this, we can
optimistically let our minds wander to the dog days of August when this same
part of the world is perpetually under smog warnings and soaking humidity.

In Montreal, it seems, they don't need to
wait until summer for smog.

Environment
Canada has issued a 25 smog alerts already
this winter. It's a phenomena brought on by the propensity of Quebecers to burn
wood to help keep their homes warm. Many, many homes in
Quebec – even the most modern – have
wood-burning stoves for supplemental heat. It's a throw back to the 1970s when
people didn't trust Hydro Quebec to keep the power on during the bitter
Canadian winters. And during the devastating 1998 ice storm, those stoves were
a God send for thousands of families forced to cope without electricity for
weeks. After the ice storm, even more people bought wood stoves, just in case.

That was
then. Now clean is green and
Montreal is looking at banning wood-burning
stoves to eliminate the winter smog.

When I
was first married (way back in the 80s!) we used wood to heat our tiny house
near
Halifax, which was primarily heated with expensive, coal-fired
electricity. It was cozy and warm; it was also a lot of work, lugging dirty logs
into the house. I prefer a programmable thermostat today.

But as we
say in the fire biz, where there's smoke, there's fire. And in
Montreal's case, where there's fire,
there's smog. You can read more in the Globe .

 


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