Call it providence, or remarkable coincidence.
An Ontario-based sculptor was commissioned to create a monument to Fort McMurray's firefighters just two weeks before devastating wildfires swept through the northern Alberta city.
Timothy Schmalz was commissioned in mid-April by the Fort McMurray fire department to create a large bronze monument for the city, the artist wrote in a Facebook post. In the first week of May, he returned from a trip to Rome to hear that over 2,400 structures in the city had been destroyed and more than 88,000 people forced to flee their homes.
"The work, which focuses on the spirituality of the firefighter, will forever be connected to this tragedy for me," Schmalz wrote on Facebook.
"This to me is providential," he added in a comment.
“Artwork is created to help people, to tell stories, and I think this is a great story that will forever be showcased in Fort McMurray, the story of the sacrifice, the courage,” he told the Edmonton Journal.
Schmalz primarily sculpts religious-themed pieces, but has made monuments to firefighters and soldiers in the past.
Sculpture inspired by "Fireman's Prayer"
The bronze sculpture will take the shape of a Maltese cross, the international symbol of firefighters.
Inside the cross will be images of firefighters performing heroic acts, like extinguishing flames and saving a baby and an elderly man from a fire.
The cross' centre depicts a lone, kneeling firefighter, presided over by an angel above.
"This to me is providential."
The piece is inspired by the "Fireman's Prayer," which is posted to the Fort McMurray fire department's website.
"Enable me to be alert, and hear the weakest shout, and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out," reads an excerpt from the poem.
Schmalz said he hopes the sculpture will represent Fort McMurray's resiliency.
“Hopefully, it will become a symbol of the strength of that community, as well as all of Canada, working to rebuild," the artist told the Toronto Star.
The finished piece will be installed in the centre of Fort McMurray in September, according to CBC News.
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