Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fire, Class Act: or, Frost Dragon, Disgorging Ice

Frost dragon fights fire:
Class Act Dance Studio, Regina

Photo © Shelley Banks
In late February, the Class Act dance studio building in Regina, Saskatchewan, burned.

Smoke billowed into a winter sky so cold that ice halos danced around the sun.

Sepia-shadowed plumes rolled over the warehouse district.

Fire-fighting equipment became a frost dragon, spewing icy water down onto the blaze... And I wanted to take a picture of that creature.


When G and I walked towards it, a police officer told us to move along.

"Or are you looking for a warm place to stay?" he asked.

A jail joke? I tried to explain my desire to capture that ice-fire serpent.

"The ladder... the hose — it looks like a dragon," I said. "I'd like to take a picture of its head."

He laughed.

I remembered then how much I'd relished my press pass. I gave that up almost 25 years ago when I left The Vancouver Sun. My nostalgia peaked when I saw a Global-TV crew saunter across the barrier.

The officer suggested we walk south and find an alley we could approach through. Cold seared my left cheekbone, my vulnerable spot at minus 35°C. Too cold to explore. We shivered back to the car.

Driving home, we saw smoke clouds looming even higher. We looped around to the north side of the fire.


In winter at latitude 50°26'N, the sun sweeps a low arc not far above the horizon, from about 16° at the Solstice, to 40° at the Equinox.

The top photo captures its elevation just after solar noon in this land frozen by The Time Act into permanent daylight savings. The sun will not climb higher.


Focusing directly at the sun shifts hues and tonal values. Other coverage of the fire features shots taken from the south, smoke surging into a cornflower sky. But from the north, through the camera lens at least, the sky glows quicksilver, pewter blue.


Does what we see define us?

If so, I wonder what others see in pictures of this fire that burned, then smoldered for three days.


Heat churns through these flames (edited by G
to bring out the colours he saw in these flames)
Photo © Shelley Banks 
Beyond empathy for the building owners and displaced young dancers...

Beyond nostalgia for that old reporter's rush...

I see small prairie towns where tracks slice north from south, where horizons are restless, skies alarming, and buildings huddle so low to the ground that firetruck ladders tower over all.

And I still see that dragon's head, reared back, mocking our impermanence, fragility. Frost creature spewing ice.



  1. Hi Brenda -- Thanks for the feedback. It was very impressive. (And yes, sad. Fires always are, and winter fires seem saddest to me.)


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