We are ready for anything. Including the Reopening of the Border! Half of our camps are all ready to go and the others are being cleaned up as I move around saving cabins from the fire. We do have bad news though. Blackbirch cabin is gone due to the fire. I will give more details in my story.
We have been dealing with fires for almost a month and I have not been home very much. I have been up north almost every night since the end of June, preparing camps for the fire as it gets closer. The fire we are dealing with is very big and started at the end of June, SE of the Cherrington cabins. It now stretches from west of Cherrington, south of Blackbirch and goes a long ways east to Vee Lake, where as of yesterday, it had stopped on the entire south shore of Vee, the east side has burned into a huge area with lots of lakes and slowed down considerably. Rain is possible in the forecast so let’s hope we can get some moisture and put this one behind us.
Around July 1, I headed north to Cherrington because we heard a fire was close. Once I got there I could see that I was staying until it was dealt with. I have been getting pretty good at predicting when the fire will come. That is not a good talent to have if you have to be doing that week after week.
We would have 2 days to prepare. There was a fire crew at Cherrington when I got there putting up a sprinkler system. We are very grateful for that, without it we would not have had anything left. I brought our own pump and hose so I began flooding the bush behind the camps starting at the Bay cabin because that is where it was going to come from over the high ground. 2 days proved not to be enough time.
At 2:30 on July 3rd, I went for a quick flight to check on the fire. It was a very short flight. The fire was going to be here in an hour….. The firefighters and I kept flooding and waited for the fire. It came. Hard enough we had to retreat as it was tree topping at 3:33 on July 3.
Once the wall of fire hit the wet bush it stopped. Just like that. The fire crew began putting out the flames and I began moving our pump to the Point to get ready for the next wave.
As I got the hose set up near the outhouse at the Point, I could hear it coming again. The sound is like a train. And when it fires up, you know it is coming. There is a high rock behind the Point and when it came over that rock it was moving fast. Time to get out of the way.
The fire came and rolled right over the Point cabin and was headed towards the Lodge. The cabin disappeared in the flames and smoke. I was standing on the rock in front of the cabin and the fire was paralleling us. The fire crew thought I was nuts as I was giving it the finger and yelling at it. 🙂
The fire charged over the cabin and the cabin appeared in the smoke with the sprinklers still running, no flames on it! Then the fire continued towards the Lodge and Bay cabin. It hit the next wall of water and slowed down and then it didn’t take long and away it went again, heading towards the Lodge. I dragged the burning hose out of the fire and began putting it out as the fire moved on. The fire burnt the MNR fire hose so then the sprinkler system went down. The fire crew then had to back away in a boat, as the fire was burning right by the fuel shed. I came by boat from the Point, no pump set up now and the fire is 10 feet from the building. So I grabbed a bucket. Lol. I put it out as best as I could with a pail, then went and got the pump. As the fire by the fuel shed was mostly out, I hear flames again. Looking at the Point, the trees right by the fuel tank are going up to the top with fire. So I load up the pump and go and put those out. We repaired the hose that burnt shortly after and the sprinklers were back up and running. I slept there that night, so did Dustee. When the fire hit, I put her in the airplane. She knew bad things were happening. She was covered in burnt pine needles inside because I forgot to close the windows. I left her home for the next fires.
The best way to describe it is that it was violent. Tall trees and having it hit at the hottest time of the day. It was 90+ that day. Every fire I go through, I learn more about preparation and assessing the weak points.
The fire crew spent the night at Showalter’s cabin but I stayed up till 11 pm putting out hotspots around my cabin. I slept great (with the sprinklers running all night) as the fire continued to burn around both sides of the bay. The landscape has changed but the trees will grow again.
The fire crew stayed and put out the fire around the camp. I was moving to BlackBirch. No more fire crew help for me as they were needed elsewhere but I was very grateful to have had them for this fire protecting 3 cabins.
The Blackbirch chapter of this story was different. I had about 3 days to prepare. Soaking the hill behind camp and over the ridge. All while the sprinklers were wetting down the camp. The fire came slowly against the hot southwest wind. The sights and sounds as it burnt the big timber on the east end of the lake were wild. huge plums of smoke, fish biting like crazy, all as I was getting rained on by burnt pine needles and even full on pine cones!
The fire came in the morning on July 9. Slowly, it was much easier to deal with than the Cherrington fire. Although I didn’t have enough hose to reach the far side of the ridge, so I was prepared this time with a water backpack and a bucket. It was hard to keep the fire from getting across the rock as it was so hot and so dry. I had some trying moments but was able to protect the whole area and walk the fire to the west shore much easier once I got into hose distance. My one weak point was that the point west of the cabin had a bunch of dead wind blown trees. I stopped the fire from reaching that area. I spent another couple of days putting out hot spots around the cabin and felt confident that it would be ok…..
I left for home. Feeling good. We can see hot spots on a satellite website and the next couple days we could see the fire getting out of hand once again around the cabin and across the lake on either side. The next day we had 90+ degrees and a hurricane wind out of the SW changing to west. I had enough sense to know that it was not a day to be in the air or in front of a fire. No one could get in to fill up the sprinklers, although I don’t know it would have saved the cabin in that wind. The fire looks like it came from the trappers cabin to the west in a long wicked charge. Ignited the trees on the point, burnt hard up to the edge of the water by the outhouses. Jumped to the cabin and that was it. It had to have started underneath or on the roof. It burned from the inside out. This is the last picture of the cabin at Blackbirch when I left.
The BBQ was 8 feet away and only melted the knobs.
We have plans in the works already to replace the cabin and hope to have it done or almost done by fall. One positive, the shed (full of gas and propane), the boats and motors, both outhouses and even the gazebo are still standing. We only have to build a cabin. We will do our best and we now have a carpenter on staff 🙂
The fire, same fire, also headed for Vee Lake during that windy day. It ended up right south of the camp, west as well as east. I then went to stay there until this passes once again.
I had a full sprinkler system set up running on the cabin as well as 4 nozzles and 2 pumps. I am getting smarter and more experienced with this fire business. I took enough food for 3 days and beer for a week and then was there for 8 days. I ate a lot of fish. 🙂
The fire came 2 days after I got there. It crested the hill at 8 pm. Much better time of day for it to come near. I was hoping in the evening and overnight that the fire would calm and slowly burn towards the lake. I left the sprinklers running that night and then things started to change in our favor. The wind switched to the east and it got a lot cooler. I had one more full day of waiting and watching and patrolling the island to watch for jumper fires. Then it always gets really smokey before something good will happen. I got socked right in with smoke but that night it rained! More than half an inch. Not a ton but enough to help me out and pretty much squash the fire near the camp. Cherrington and Blackbirch did not get any rain. So that side of the fire still survives. So far the fire is holding along the entire south shore of Vee Lake. I will be back tomorrow to keep an eye on things and start to ready the remaining camps. Lets hope the rain comes.
As for the excitement of the border opening up again. The only thing I want to remind all of our guests after all the Bulls#!t we have endured. Get back to a simpler life, a simpler trip. Less electronics, less junk. Keep your weight down, leave that sh!t at home. Bare minimum. You will be much happier for it. And so will I 😉
This was some pop cans that came up at the portage at Cherrington. Garbage from the 1980’s when the fire went through last. Growing under a tree for 40 years. Pretty much preserved.