The forest fires ravishing Western Canada were no match for one Saskatchewan couple whose quick-thinking tactics saved their cabin from the blaze.
For two weeks, Mark Paquette and his wife used industrial-grade sprinklers to soak their cabin and surrounding property.
With other cabins in Northern Saskatchewan being destroyed by the fire, the couple wasn’t sure if their strategy was going to work. They slept in shifts as a safety precaution and at times were forced to escape on their boat when the flames got too close to their cabin on Nemeiben Lake.
In an interview with the CBC, Paquette said, “when the fire is very close, and it’s active, we basically pack everything up, we put it in our boat and we anchor out about 200-300 metres from the shore.”
After some of these false alarms, the fire finally breached the couple’s property line. And to their amazement, their sprinkler method worked.
“Once we saw the magnitude of the flames, we thought we had no chance,” Paquette told the CBC. “Then you see this huge plume of white smoke and the flames die right down. And we were amazed. The sprinklers were doing their job.”
When it was safe to return, the couple found their cabin in the same condition they had left it. The surrounding forest, however, was burned to a crisp.
“Everything is just destroyed on either side of us,” Paquette said. “There’s just nothing left. It’s like walking on the surface of the moon.”
Other residents on Nemeiben Lake also used sprinklers in an attempt to deter the fire.
Russ Richards set up sprinklers around his cabin in June when he first heard about the nearby forest fires. When the fire made its way to his property in early July, the whole area was destroyed except for a 50-foot radius around his cabin.
Many other families, however, were unable to save their cabins.
George Montgrand and his family lived in their cabin at Clearwater River Dene Nation year-round, where they hunted and lived off the land. Now, their family home is completely destroyed.
“If it took you two years, by yourself, to build something like that, and come back and see it only ashes and smoke, it’s kind of hard,” Montgrand told the CBC. “I try to fake it, like there’s nothing wrong, but that’s not it at all. I’m just trying to get my kids not to worry so much about it.”
Since June, thousands of forest fires have ravaged more than 2,000,000-hecatres in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.