Cruising by on a boat in the middle of Lac La Ronge and gazing at the shore, Pat Bourque’s cabin sits on an island of green, surrounded by black.
Fire ravaged the surrounding forest a week ago, and the flames came close enough to singe the cabin.
With every step along short trail from the boat to the cabin, Bourque kicks up a small puff of black ash. He points to a small pile of burnt wood.
“I had a really nice bench here. I put that in about 15 years ago,” he said. “Things are just scorched, but (the fire) stopped.”
Bouque has owned the cabin for 20 years and the structure survived the English Bay fire in the 1990s. When the fire hazard was moved to high on the May long weekend, he fired up the water pump and began to soak the surrounding area.
Today, there’s a clear dividing line between the lush green area the pump watered and scorched earth.
A volunteer brought a second pump when the flames drew closer. The pair were forced to flee as the fire came over the northern hill directly behind the cabin around 6 p.m. on June 11.
“He was in (the forest) and I was in the boat when it went over, and that was a lot of adrenalin,” Bourque said. “You do all you can to prepare and hope for the best.”
Pine cones rained down from the trees and they were forced to retreat across the water. Smoke obscured their view of the cabin.
Bourque sneaked back to the cabin three days later to refuel the pumps and douse any remaining hot spots. His low pressure pump wasn’t able to save everything and he lost his guest house to the fire. However, he said he’s happy the main cabin survived.
“It’s just material, but all the memories … it’s that you lose,” he said. “My son helped me move this shed in. All those things would have been gone and you start over again. I didn’t want to lose it.”
Bourque said without the volunteer’s help or his pump, his cabin likely would have burned to the ground.
Other cabin owners weren’t as lucky. Three Wadin Bay homes were lost to fire along with around 100 other structures across the province so far.
Other cabin owners are angry they were evacuated and were unable to return with pumps to protect their cabins. They relied on those still within the fire zone to protect their homes.
Bourque said he understands their frustrations and that this is life in the north.
“Those little squirrels and rabbits, they live here. I’m just a guest,” he said. “What mother nature throws at me, she throws, from high to low water to fires.”
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