British Columbia in Flames: Stories from a Blazing Summer, written by Claudia Cornwall, has been named a finalist for the 2022 Jeanne Clark Award. This award is presented annually by the Prince George Public Library to individuals or groups for outstanding contributions in the preservation and promotion of local history in the categories of Publication and Service.
British Columbia in Flames examines the fire season of 2017, “the likes of which British Columbia had never seen.” At the time, Cornwall found herself “glued to the news about the fire.” Her worry was partly personal—her family has owned a summer place in Sheridan Lake for decades—but she was equally concerned about her neighbours and the communities of the Cariboo-Chilcotin and the many losses and hardships they were suffering.
Some of the communities featured in the book include Sheridan Lake, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, 16 Mile House, 100 Mile House, Pressy Lake, Lac La Hache, Quesnel, Williams Lake, Hanceville-Riske Creek and Clinton.
As the summer of 2017 wore on, Cornwall “came across wonderful stories about how people coped in trying circumstances. I thought we could learn lessons from them about the importance of community.” She started interviewing ranchers, First Nations people, RCMP members, firefighters and other community members and collecting these anecdotes for British Columbia in Flames. The result is a highly readable and gripping memoir that is a tribute to the strength and resilience of the BC communities who showed how they could work together to face a terrifying force of nature.
Claudia Cornwall is also the author of Battling Melanoma and Catching Cancer (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016 and 2013). Her book At the World’s Edge: Curt Lang’s Vancouver, 1937–1998 (Mother Tongue, 2011) was shortlisted for the City of Vancouver Book Award, and Letter from Vienna: A Daughter Uncovers Her Family’s Jewish Past (Douglas & McIntyre, 1995) was awarded the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize. Cornwall lives in North Vancouver B.C.
The Jeanne Clarke Local History Award was established by the Library Board in 1985, in memory of former library board chair Jeanne Clarke. The award is presented annually to individuals or groups for outstanding contributions in the preservation and promotion of local and regional history in the categories of publication and service.