POWELL RIVER (NEWS 1130) – There may only be a handful of large wildfires in BC at the moment, but the last few summers of smoke and flames are still fresh in the memories of many people, including a singer/songwriter from the Sunshine Coast who seems to have struck a chord in communities across the province.
Devon Hanley has written an ode to her wildfire-fighting son, 21-year old John Southcott, who has been part of the BC Wildfire Service for the past four summers.
“He’s now a parattack unit crew member up in Mackenzie, so he’s parachuting out of planes into lightning strikes in the northern part of the province,” she tells NEWS 1130.
He sends photos and stories of the people he works with from the fire line when he can, but Hanley says he is gone months at a time and she often has no idea where he is.
“I have been so inspired by all of this. I knew very little about wildfire fighting and now I have this window into their world,” she says. “I started writing the song last summer, in 2018. I was feeling a bit lonely for him, missing him, because I often don’t know where he is when he’s out of cellphone range. It was kind of a letter to my son, just hoping he was safe and thinking about him.”
Speaking with @devonLhanley, who has written an ode to her wildfire-fighting son James. The song “Fighting the Fire” has struck a chord in BC communities struck by smoke and flame the past few summers. Hear my story on today’s @NEWS1130 morning show. pic.twitter.com/KEpRiKKm9N
— Mike Lloyd (@llikemoyd) July 12, 2019
Hanley began performing “Fighting the Fire” at gigs through this spring and summer and says she immediately noticed how it resonated with audiences.
“People were really interested and they would some up and talk to me about it. At one little festival I did in Lund, a mother came up to me, threw her arms around me and gave me a hug. She said her son was also fighting fires around the province and I could tell it meant a lot to her.”
That is when Hanley decided to record the song in studio, releasing a video on June 30th, using James’ photos and others courtesy of the BC Wildfire Service. In less than two weeks, it has already been viewed thousands of times online and gained media attention across BC.
“It’s really taken off. I am really surprised, honoured and just humbled that people are so moved by it,” she says.
“People are saying ‘thank you for expressing our gratitude to these amazing men and women, that they are heroes, where would be without them?’ I’m thrilled to promote this because it is about them and it’s about all of us in our communities that are affected by wildfires.”
And while she’s astonished by the attention her song is getting, Hanley says it was her son’s reaction that was really special.
“When I first sent him my own iPhone recording of the song, I never heard anything back and I thought ‘Oh, good grief, maybe he doesn’t like it.’ Then I sent him the studio recording and didn’t hear back,” she explains.
“And then one day I get a phone call right out of the blue and he says ‘Mom, I played your song for the crew today.’ I just held my breath and waited and then he said they loved it, it’s a good song. That’s when I felt really good about putting it out there.”