Thursday, July 7, 2016

Aloha to Julie Rowe, The Joy of Writing, and Surviving the Fort McMurray fires

Reminder - I have a special giveaway for July at this link.

One week from today, I will be moderating this panel at the RWA Conference in San Diego:

The Joy of Writing (WRITER’S LIFE)
Speakers: Anne Elizabeth, Cathy Maxwell, and Julie Rowe

Best-selling, award-winning, and perpetually positive authors share how they savor their passion for writing while navigating the pitfalls of the publishing industry.

I proposed this panel and handpicked each author to participate.  I did not know then that Julie would put that positive attitude to work when the Fort McMurray fire broke out in Alberta.  Julie shares her perspective of that experience ...

I’m a victim of the Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada wildfire that destroyed 2500 homes and buildings in the city of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas. The fire forced 88,000 people to evacuate for more than a month.

The evacuation was complicated by two things. The fact that only one highway runs through Fort McMurray. Only one road in or out in either direction (north or south), and the distance to the nearest urban center capable of dealing with the entire population of one city and several smaller outlying communities that were also evacuated. That urban center is Edmonton, which is 431 kms (267 miles) south of Fort McMurray.

Imagine for a moment what it would have been like. The roads completely clogged with vehicles, enough smoke to turn day into night and fire all around you. Our firefighters were overwhelmed by the enormity of the fire. It surrounded the city on almost all sides, fed by high temperatures, low humidity, a dry winter and high winds.

If you go to Youtube and search for the Fort McMurray wildfire you’ll get some crazy footage from cellphones and dash-cams as people escaped. Crazy footage.

The evacuation was issued on May 3, 2016. A lot of people still haven’t come back to the city. Some will never come back. I’m back in my home with my husband and family and we’re grateful our home wasn’t affected as much as others.

My worry now is for our first responders. There have been a couple of articles about some of the men and women who saved our city from burning to the ground going through PTSD and all its horrors. These people have been through, not just a battle, but a war. Their opponent wasn’t a terrorist group or army, it was a fire that didn’t act like any fire any of our firefighters have ever experienced before. It seemed…evil. And now, those first responders are getting hit with feelings of guilt, inadequacy and fear.

Like any soldier in the weeks and months following any conflict, there is something they need to know.

Now is the hardest part of any disaster. The adrenaline is gone, but you can't stop seeing the fire. The smoke has disappeared, but you can't stop smelling it. The danger has passed, but your own mind has become an emotional mine field. Security and safety seem impossible now and guilt holds you hostage.

Here's the truth you need to focus on and keep repeating to yourself:

You did everything possible.

No one could have done more.

You saved more homes, businesses and lives than anyone could have expected.

You sacrificed your own homes because of your commitment to our community.

Allow yourself to grieve. It's normal to feel angry, guilty and lost. Now is the time to lean on the rest of us who didn't fight the fire. We're here to fight the fire's ghosts with smiles, hugs and gratitude.

Let us stand with you. Let us fight this battle with you.

Fight the battle at home for your soldier, veteran or first responder. Tell them they’re not alone and keep repeating it. Don’t stop. They might say you can’t understand what they’re going through. That’s a fair statement, but it doesn’t matter. You’re there for them anyway. Always. They fought to keep your community safe, your country safe. You fight to keep them safe from the mental demons they bring home.

Fight the battle. Always.

Cheers, Julie Rowe

Learn more about Julie and her books at

The Biological Response Team series, available now from Carina Press!


Thank you, Julie, for remembering the first responders.  I am glad you are safe.  I am giving away a book choice from my convention stash to one randomly selected commmenter. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment about those who serve.  Comments are open through Saturday, July 9, 10 pm in Baltimore. I'll post the winner on Sunday, July 10.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me today, Kim! Can't wait to see you in San Diego next week. :-)

  2. Thank you for the words of wisdom. I can't imagine the horror and grief that first responders go through.

  3. It is hard to imagine how they managed to do what they did. Their protective gear is heavy and hot. Imagine being covered head to foot in this heavy insulated outfit and being in an area heated by the fire, smoke so thick it is sometimes hard to see more than several hundred feet, and flames flaring up everywhere no matter what you do. It must have been such a discouraging, frustrating, and dispiriting feeling. That they just kept on fighting, savoring the few victories they did have. So many lost all they had. They deserve all the thanks and appreciation that can be given them. I do hope some agencies & groups will help them rebuild their homes.

  4. We have been through fires here. In 2003 the fire fighters saved our community. Bless all the first responders who bravely do what they do.

  5. I have the highest respect for those who serve. We had massive bushfires a few years ago. Right before the massive floods.

  6. I have the highest respect for those who serve. We had massive bushfires a few years ago. Right before the massive floods.

  7. Hi Julie, glad you're safe. As a Canadian, it broke my heart that Fort Mac suffered through such a tragedy. I have much respect for all the first responders that did their part to fight the fire.

  8. We owe them so much. My daughter joined the Peace Corps and I have been thanked for her serving.

  9. God Bless them all and keep them safe.

  10. They deserve all our respect and gratitude for how they put themselves into any emergency completely. Thank you for your post.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  11. today I am thinking of Police Officers who serve us - so many people give their time and many risk themselves in service to the rest of us.

  12. Thank you for your service. You are all very brave.
    Karen T.

  13. To all who protect us in the world

  14. So thankful to all the first responders that are willing to risk their lives to save ours. And so glad to see you got out safely, Julie!

  15. I don't have any vets in the family but I have respect for those who have served and who are serving. They risk their all to protect us and for that they have my undying gratitude