EDMONTON – A young girl ran towards a little blue car that had just pulled into her grandparents’ driveway.
“Daddy!” her little voice squealed.
A visibly tired – though still smiling – man, wearing his last clean shirt, jumped out of the passenger seat, embraced his three children and kissed his wife.
“You’re a superhero! Like Spiderman!” his four-year-old daughter said.
Their hero is finally home.
Nick Waddington is a captain with the Fort McMurray Fire Department. After a week of battling the flames that terrorized his community, alongside 160 of his Fort McMurray Fire Department brothers and sisters, he’s a lot of people’s hero now.
On Tuesday, May 3, he was at home with his family when they were told they had to leave. His family rushed to his 10-year-old daughter’s school, and headed downtown to the fire hall.
Waddington kissed his wife and kids goodbye, and set to work saving Fort McMurray.
“From the beginning – Day 1 – it looked really bad,” Waddington said.
“The fire was everywhere. The way we left… I wish we could have taken him with us,” his wife Kerri Waddington said.
“But I know he had a job to do and he needed to stay there and help save the city.”
Admittedly, Waddington said the first day was hard and overwhelming. It was about a day before reinforcements arrived from fire departments across the province to help.
Waddington is the president of IAFF Local 2494, the union representing the firefighters of Fort McMurray. He sat hand-in-hand with his wife, tears in his eyes, not when talking about what was lost, but what his members saved, their tireless efforts, missing his daughter’s 10th birthday and the support that was given to his wife and kids while he was working.
“We had so many people working in intense conditions. We had no serious injures, no deaths,” Waddington said about the work that was done. “It’s an incredible monumental task. We worked very hard and did whatever we could to get the job done.”
But don’t call him a hero.
“There’s so many heroes at so many different levels. It’s overwhelming but no, I don’t think any of us really think we’re heroes,” he said, instead commenting on the amazing coordination of efforts from other firefighters across the province, support staff, water truck drivers, fuel truck drivers, the list goes on.
“We had an organization dedicated to making sure the needs of the firefighters were met so we were able to do our job.”
The families of those who put their lives on the line say otherwise.
“We are so incredibly proud. They are our heroes. They always were,” Kerri Waddington said.
Nick is now looking towards the future, and eventually moving his family back home.
“I can say the sentiment of the Fort McMurray Fire Department is one of hope,” he said. “We’re looking at the unburned part of Fort McMurray. We’re excited to rebuild the city. We’re excited to get people back home.”