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People & Culture

Smoke-blowing idea catches fire on Facebook

A Spokane, Wash. man’s joke plan to send wildfire smoke back to B.C. got serious uptake

  • Aug 24, 2018
  • 559 words
  • 3 minutes
Event co-host Hanna Calbick Sims aims a fan northwards to “Blow Spokane’s smoke away to Canada.” Photo from Facebook. Expand Image

Spokane, Wash., may get a bit more windy on Saturday if the hundreds of residents who replied to a Facebook event follow through on their pledge to bring out their household fans and blow the wildfire smoke that’s been choking the city for over a week 200 kilometres north back to Canada.

Local resident Caleb Moon created the joke Facebook event, “Blow Spokane’s Smoke Away to Canada,” last Sunday when he and his friends had decided that they’d had enough of the heavy air pollution caused in part by wildfires in B.C.

The province is currently under a state of emergency as fire crews try to contain blazes that have, as of Aug. 23, burned an area more than four times the size of Kootenay National Park.

Smoke over Spokane last weekend pushed the region’s air quality index into the “Hazardous” range and residents were warned to stay inside, regardless of their health condition. For Moon, the Facebook event was a way to find some humour in an unpleasant situation.

“This was just a silly, dumb, fun idea that me and my friends had,” says Moon. “We made a stupid Facebook event, thinking that our friends would look at it and laugh, then I went to bed.”

Moon woke up to find that more than 1,500 people had responded to his spoof event, which calls for all 550,000 Spokane-area residents to turn on their household fans and aim them north. “Teamwork makes the dream work,” the description reads. “Let’s do this, Spokanites. Let’s send this smoke right back to those Canucks!”

A satirical event with generous intent

After noticing that the event was quickly growing in popularity, Moon and his friends saw an opportunity to make a difference. At the suggestion of event co-host Hanna Calbick-Sims, Moon added links to donate to B.C. charities, including Foodbanks BC and provincial SPCA emergency animal shelters, to support victims of the fires.

“We’re trying to make some good out of this, and I think some people get it,” says Moon.

Though the event is clearly satirical, several Canadians who spotted the notice in their newsfeeds have taken Moon at his word and slung fuming anger back over the border. After an inaccurate news article reported that Moon may have been serious about his plan, “People now believe it,” he says, “and they’re angry at me because they think I’m an idiot.”

On Tuesday, he also added a disclaimer to the top of the event’s official description in an attempt to dissuade visitors from directing their hot-take outrage at his personal Facebook inbox.

Though weather conditions this week have led to a slight improvement in Spokane’s air quality, Moon says he may still climb onto his roof and turn on his fan on Saturday.

“At this point, just because of how much this has taken off and how funny it is, I might sit on my roof and do a Facebook Live video in the event page.”

As of Friday afternoon, more than 4,000 Canadians and Americans were trading friendly fan-based threats in a new “The Great Smoke War of 2018” Facebook group. It remains to be seen when tensions will blow over.


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