Many Central Albertans are ready to kick 2016 to the curb, but it was a decent year for Brian Walrond, whose family survived the Fort McMurray wildfire.
“There were a lot of emotions in the midst of craziness, but it’s been a good year. We were able to move forward in many ways,” said Walrond, who recently relocated his wife and kids to Red Deer.
The ordained pastor, and musician, has been rapping about his experiences on the songs Remember That Day and When Thank You Is Not Enough — both written about Fort McMurray’s natural disaster.
Since Remember was released in June, it’s had more than 100,000 YouTube hits and Thank You, online since November, has already had nearly 60,000. Walrond is thrilled, and amazed, by the reaction.
The first tune chronicles what his family went through in May, when wildfires closed in on their North Alberta city. Walrond and his wife had been attending a church conference in Grande Prairie at the time, and weren’t allowed to go home. This meant Walrond’s mother-in-law, who had been looking after the couple’s two children, had to handle the whole evacuation.
Walrond believes in divine intervention, since his excitable mother-in-law managed to be unflappable throughout the ordeal — even when the car she was escaping in broke down at city limits. “She said, ‘Lord, me and the kids aren’t getting out of the car in the midst of all this, so you’re going to have to do something,’” said Walrond.
“When she tried starting the car up again — zoom — it started.”
Although the vehicle’s alternator eventually quit again, friends found enough room in their SUV for the children and their grandmother and the Walronds were reunited in Edmonton. The family chose to be evacuated to Red Deer, where they have friends.
Although their Fort McMurray house didn’t burn down, the Walronds made a permanent move to Red Deer in August because of our more central location, and the friendly welcome they received. Brian also relocated his RS1 Motivational Media Productions company, which produces videos for clients, and also runs a non-profit ministerial arm to help people unlock their “God-given talents.”
The New York native has used his own rap talents to make three previous albums. Early in 2017 he plans to release an EP of his Fort McMurray songs, including When Thank You Is Not Enough, which expresses gratitude to police firefighters, and other rescue workers, who helped residents escape and then resettle. They are already available on iTunes.