Anita Daher's first instinct when she saw the giant smoke cloud threatening her northern Saskatchewan town was to pick up her two daughters from the elementary school.
"I felt a need to keep my babies close," she recalls.
At home that afternoon, the radio described how the forest fire had jumped the highway and destroyed a resort subdivision at the edge of town.
A close friend lost her house.
The town, La Ronge, was evacuated, street by street, as the fire progressed.
Daher's husband Jim was at the airport. The battery in his cell phone had died and she had no way of contacting him.
Anita's response to all this?
Laundry, pot roast
Plain old garden-variety housework.
"While RCMP and fire crews raced up and down our street, lights flashing, sirens screaming, I cleaned the house, did laundry, and put on a pot roast," she tells SooToday.com.
"Nervous energy. When the RCMP officer finally flung open the door and told us to 'Get out!' I could actually see flames in the trees behind the house across the street."
That was May, 1999. A couple of months later, Daher and her family left La Ronge.
Sault This Week
But the fire images remained.
Images so vivid that Daher, who now lives in Sault Ste. Marie and covers our incendiary City Council for Sault This Week, had to do something with them.
She's processed her terrifying memories by writing a novel based on them.
"I've learned that through fiction, real-life experiences can morph into something new and alive in a completely different way," she says.
Daher's forest fire has morphed into a book launch today (Saturday) for her first novel, Flight from Big Tangle.
Book launch Saturday afternoon
From 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, Daher will read from her new book (intended for young readers) and show slides of the fire that inspired it. To see one, please click here.
There'll be prize giveaways, mountains of Daher's home-baked cookies, and water-bomber pilots Gene McCauley and Gary Thompson will talk about their experiences fighting forest fires.
During the event, the museum will reduce its admission price to $5 for adults and seniors, and $1.50 for children six and older. Children five and under are free.
Daher will also appear on John Campbell's Contact program, at 8 a.m. Sunday on EZ Rock 100.5 FM.
For your reading pleasure
To read an excerpt from Anita Daher's new novel for young readers, please click here.
For still more reading pleasure, click here.