After a professional hockey career runs its course, Adam Cracknell can now add firefighting to his resume.
The former Kootenay Ice standout was out in Moyie on Saturday afternoon, helping community members douse a small wildfire that flared up after a windstorm knocked down a power transformer.
“The power went out and we saw smoke coming in from the highway,” Cracknell said, who is currently skating with veterans at Kootenay Ice training camp this week. “I called it in right away and they said they got a lot of calls on it.
“My neighbour and I looked at each other and you could see the flames, and just knowing how dry it is and what’s going on around here, we figured let’s grab some shovels and go help it out and try to contain it.”
And so, Cracknell, along with a few others, headed up a hill roughly five kilometres south of Moyie Lake with shovels and water jugs in hand to tackle the budding wildfire.
“There was a path that, we felt that if it jumped the path, it could’ve really gotten out of control because there was no way of getting above it and there’s no way we could’ve climbed the hill to try and contain it,” Cracknell said.
“We felt if we got above the fire, with the wind…we had a good source of sand there, we could just use our shovels and launch sand on it.”
Luckily, one of the group was a retired forest firefighter who was able to keep the volunteers safe as they worked on the small blaze for 45 minutes before an initial attack crew and helicopter arrived on-site.
“Once the helicopter came, it didn’t have a chance to spread, but we did what we thought was a good job of just containing it and once the Forest Service showed up, they were happy that we were helping out and that it didn’t get out of control.”
The fire was out almost as quickly as it started, only growing to less than a hectare in size.
“It was about 45 minutes of just straight hauling dirt and it would calm down, but then the wind gusts would pick up and that’s when it would get out of control again,” continued Cracknell. “But we did a good job of knocking down the edges and just letting it burn in the middle.
“…It was a cool experience, but at the same time, it had to be done.”
Cracknell joked that he’s still coughing up smoke, but has no plans to retire the skates for firefighting gear.
“You have a new respect for those guys, I don’t think that was a huge one compared to what they’re used to,” Cracknell said. “It’s a very dangerous job, there’s a lot going on with trees falling, especially with those winds, it’s not something I ever really thought about.”
If Cracknell has any aspirations about a career switch, he’ll have to put it on hold after signing a new one-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks during the off-season.
A 40-goal scorer with the Kootenay Ice in his final season with the team in 2006, Cracknell has spent the majority of his pro career as an AHL journeyman within the affiliate systems of the Calgary Flames and the St. Louis Blues.
Originally selected in the ninth round of the 2004 NHL Draft by the Flames, he has seen NHL action with the Blues and, more recently, with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, after being acquired on waivers from the L.A. Kings.
“There was a lot interest over the summer,” Cracknell said. “You get calls and teams are really interested—every time I got a call from my agent every week that Vancouver was still really interested, they put an offer on the table to a couple guys and I just said, ‘Yes, I’d love to be a part of it, if you guys are happy with me.’
“…It was a difficult summer but when you get that job, it’s a whole new life and I’m going to head there in a week and go try to make that team.”
Cracknell was in the WHL with the Ice when current Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins was down the highway in Medicine Hat heading up the Tigers. More recently, Cracknell faced Desjardin’s former AHL team—the Texas Stars—and also went up against the Utica Comets, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate, which is coached by former Portland Winterhawks bench boss Travis Green.
“At the end of the day, I think Jim Benning just knows what type of player I am and I hope my career and how I play was the most motivating thing for them,” said Cracknell.