Fire watching is largely something that happens anywhere but the UK, unless you mean the way we seem to stay in with the fire on as it continually rains outside. In the great wilds of huge countries like Canada forest fires are a big threat of course and in the dry season they employ people to scan the horizon for them.
In the morning of 26th August 2006 Stephanie Stewart was one such person. She was staying in a cabin at the bottom of a look out tower near Hinton, Alberta. This 70 year old lady was to call in at about 9 am with a weather report. When she did not do this a supervisor went over to check that all was well. It wasn’t.
Water was boiling on the stove and there was a blood smear on the wall. There was no sign of Ms Stewart.
There was no trace found of her over the coming days either. Not only were land areas scoured but underwater teams checked nearby lakes. This lady was an experienced outdoors woman and had been working in this capacity for 12 years. There was no sign of this being a bizarre animal attack or that she had simply wandered off. Her vehicle was still parked outside.
I recall a theory, based on the scene, that she may have had an overnight visitor but I cannot find the reference now. Certainly no person has been traced that saw her that day. This lookout tower is one of 127 that the forestry service maintains. It was clearly signposted from the road. This is a habit the government has stopped since Ms Stewart went missing. It has been reported that her disappearance is the only one known to have happened from these places.
The building is said to be 5km ( 3 miles) from Route 40 and could be classed as a remote location. In an Alberta Crimebeat account one name came up. A guy called Travis Vader was in the area and he is currently serving time for the double murder of a couple from Edmonton. That city is over a two hour drive to the east. Both victims were in their 70s.
It is said that Vader was trying to rob the elderly people while they were on a camping trip. Ms Stewart had a gold watch that has not been traced along with missing bedding. Still the police have not linked him to it. As we say on RCC, it is often the case that people try and link murders to a convicted killer because of some similarities in the crime. The reality is that there is usually more than one lowlife operating at any one time so the Vader theory remains speculation.
Recently, in Australia, an older couple vanished while camping out in the wilderness. The man charged with the crime is a pilot with no major criminal history. Bad things can happen quickly and sometimes as one off incidents.
The RCMP would love to hear from anyone with knowledge of the case. They are adamant that this was no accident or willing disappearance.