Fighting fires with fiery volunteers

One fall day, Bruce Sanderson got the call: a cottage on the lake was ablaze. As one of 15 volunteers on the Fire Safety Committee for Crane Lake, Ont., he was ready. 

Since the cottagers began thinking about fire safety more than 50 years ago, they have assembled five fire pump boxes around the lake, each with basic equipment used for fighting fires, including a portable pump and hoses. A pontoon boat also holds oxygen, a backboard, and a larger pump. When cottagers call 911, a service called Northern-911 texts volunteers, who go pick up the closest pump. They set aside $40 from each cottage’s annual dues to pay for costs. 

Around 2014, they added more protection, opting to pay an extra $256 per year, per property to the Seguin Fire Department in the neighbouring township to respond to calls. It’s nice to know, says Bruce, “that as we’re putting water on the fire, pros are on the way.” 

When Bruce got to the fire scene that day, the cottager had already put out the flames. They peeled back siding to ensure that the fire was out, and when the Seguin team arrived, they used heatguns to look for hot spots. 

And it’s not just the official responders who get on board. At their regatta, cottagers race to start a pump and knock a plastic goose off a ladder, so everyone learns to use the pumps in case they need to jump into action to fight fires. That camaraderie, Bruce says, and the peace of mind of knowing they’re not on their own if something happened, are the best parts of what they’ve built together. 

This story was originally published as part of the collection “Better Together” in the June/July 2020 issue of Cottage Life magazine. Read about other cottagers delivering pizza for a good cause and others working together to fight phragmites.

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