Texts were coming and going so fast that we had to scroll back through the feed to make sure we knew which responses went with which questions.
The fire was out of control. And not far from my in-laws home. We were watching the news, finding social media feeds that were giving live fire updates, listening to the evacuation instructions and perimeters. My in-laws had packed up the car. They were right on the border of the evacuation area. They could smell the smoke. We, from Michigan, were looking for any hotel availability for them to get a room for the night, there was none—16,000 people were evacuated, all the hotels in any reasonable proximity were full.
Then came word that the fire had jumped the road. It was on their side now. Our concern rose with the spreading of the flames.
Then came the videos. Some from news teams and helicopters showing smoke from a distance. And then the video driving through the fire. A first-hand view of what was happening. A little smoke at first, but then as the driver progresses down the road a few spots of flames show up on the sides of the road with some embers flying into windshield and tumbling across the road. Then they are surrounded by flames. Visibility is minimal and they nearly rearend a car in front of them that appears out of the smoke—adding to the realization of how bad it is; the smoke is so thick you could not see through it.
My in-laws were never officially in the evacuation zone. The fire was contained before it spread that far.
Thankfully, no one died as a result of the Tantallon fire, but there was plenty of property damage: about 200 buildings were destroyed, including 151 homes.
Our family trip to Nova Scotia was two months away. We were curious how things would look along one of our common drives. Hammonds Plains Road was the road in the video with trees burning on both sides of the road.
I got to see the morning after we arrived. It was bleak. Charred trunks marked the path of the fire; fenced off holes in the ground where homes once stood. Homes stripped down to the weather shielding because the siding had melted. It was unsettling to see the path the fire had carved out of the homes and trees. Some homes still standing, virtually untouched beside a home that had been burned to nothing but ash.
But along the forest floor, shooting up from the black ground or from the base of trees that were nothing but standing charcoal, lush greenery was already stretching toward the sun. The earth has an incredible resiliency. Repairing and regrowing after disasters.
New growth following the Nova Scotia wildfire, Summer 2023. Image: Dan & Leila Tanner
The fire had decimated the forest that had grown up around the area. Of course, not everything had burned; the fire went where the wind took it. But the forest did not surrender, it began growing again nearly immediately after the burn. The ashes forest itself providing nutrients to the new growth.
I couldn’t help but feel hopeful seeing the growth. Even while I was forlorn, seeing the damage and thinking of the people who had lost their property, the shoots of growth on the ground and trees unfolded an undeniable leaf of hope in my heart. The fire had not destroyed the roots. These trees survived because their roots were deep and strong.
Rooted in Jesus we can share that same resiliency. Death and destruction do not have the last word. The destruction of what we know is not the end of things. Hope exists because there is life after death. There is hope in the one who conquered the grave and offers us life to the fullest. Life may bring fires that char everything around us, but rooted in Christ we can, like creation, be resilient and move forward into new life.