A former firefighter with the B.C. Wildfire Service is sharing dramatic video of just how thick the smoke in the Fort St. James area was this week.
Mike Simpson shot the time-lapse around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday while driving from Fort St. James toward Vanderhoof, B.C.
“We started out in the sunshine, all beautiful afternoon, clear sky and go underneath the smoke column,” Simpson told Global News.
The smoke is coming from the massive Shovel Lake wildfire, which has now grown to more than 78,000 hectares in size.
Simpson said in his two decades with the Wildfire Service, he’s seen smoke this thick before but this was his first chance to share the experience.
WATCH: Long-term effects of lingering B.C. wildfire smoke
“I’ve done this before during my career, and I was like, ‘Finally, I can get this captured in a way that people can see it,'” he said.
He added that before he made the video, he checked the Wildfire Service’s maps to see where the fire was burning and to ensure the area was safe.
Simpson, who is now a truck driver by trade, said his own home isn’t in the Fort St. James evacuation alert area but added that he’s confident fire crews will be able to protect the community.
“There’s plenty of structure firefighters that are available to make sure that nothing burns so they might come back to a view that’s black but they’ll still have a kitchen to come home and drink coffee in,” he said.
However, he said that from his perspective, B.C. needs to change the way it manages forests to prevent brutal fire seasons from becoming the norm.
WATCH: Wild fire smoke darkens Prince George sky
He said he’d like to see more pre-season burn-offs as well as logging sites managed in a way that sees slash and waste burned off to create fire breaks, preventing wildfires from growing to such a massive size.
“We’ve been really, really good at fighting fire for 100 years, and fire is a part of the natural ecosystem, and man thought we could take it out,” he said.
“Mother Nature is just reminding us of what her power is and what she wants.”