I have never experienced the complete upset of watching a fire ravage through an area even remotely close to me before, so when we heard the news of the Parry Sound 33 fire I had no concerns. How bad can a little fire get here, it’s not BC or California. They have wild fires, but it couldn’t happen to our little piece of heaven. Boy, was I wrong! We had packed up our car to head north on July 20 for a typical weekend, but just as we were about to leave we got word of evacuations happening on the Key River. I think I was still kind of not believing what I was hearing, and that we would be back to normal the next weekend.
Watching each for each report and constantly check Facebook for updates from the Key River Area Association, my Dad, Nick and I were so worried and constantly analyzing what we had read and what could it all mean. We all had visions of our little slice of heaven going up in flames and what that would mean for us. Would we have a boat? What about the dock? Then of course bigger questions like how does one go about rebuilding a cottage in a water access location, and how long would that take, and how many others would need to be rebuilt too? We also considered that if this was the way the cottage was going to go it was probably the best as insurance would cover the clean up and hauling out of the mess.
The fire grew so rapidly, and we all just watched with horror and baited breath waiting for news of our cottage. Finally on August 10 after almost 3 weeks of evacuation and restrictions, we were allowed to go!!! There were river restrictions to allow the water bombers and helicopters to do their job. We had to be off of the river by 8am and nobody was allowed on the river until 8pm. We made the journey North at 4am and safely arrived at the harbour by 7. We had packed enough provisions for a week, including a new generator as the power had been off for 3 weeks and we had no idea when it would return, and all the gas to power it. We had finished loading and the battery in the boat was flat, luck had it that we were able to get a boost and we high tailed it out of the harbour to make it to the cottage for 8.
At the highway there was no sign of damage, so as we left we had no idea what was in store for the river. I could smell the burnt trees before I could see them. There was blackened stumps and rocks, a moonscape is what some people have referred to it as. The rocks are bare, just blackened by the fire and ash. It was patchy damage and there were some signs of life close to the river and some areas where you could hardly tell. Some cottages had fire within a couple of feet of the cabin, They are so lucky! We continued on down the river no knowing yet, and as we came out of the narrows into the bay before our cottage we had this huge sense of relief. It looked the same! as we pulled up to the dock I think my dad, Nick and I simultaneously relaxed and started to laugh a little. Our cottage was there, our little solar lights were all still where we left them, Dad’s planter was looking a little over grown, not even wilting!
We started to unload and walked up to the door of the back cabin, and the smell of rotting fridge was in the air. We were lucky to only have 1 garbage bag of rotten food, and also lucky that someone came and got it as soon as we had finished emptying it. We thought we might be able to continue using the fridge but as it turns out, it was the worst smelling thing I have ever smelled. We are lucky that we have an ancient fridge in our front cabin that was unplugged and just waiting to be used. Its a Crosley Shelvador from roughly the 1950s, and it started up and ran no problem. So we took our rotten fridge and set it out at the end of the dock for clean up. The city paid for the clean up of old appliances. Practically everyone had at least one fridge sitting on the dock.
It was so great to be able to spend a week at the cottage. It was a much needed break for everyone. The girls swam two or three times a day and I joined them at least once a day. The water was beautifully warm and so clear from the lack of boats stirring up the bottom. There were helicopters flying overhead at least 5 times a day, we got quite used to hearing them buzzing around and watching. A couple of them flew quite low over our cottage and the dogs thought that they could take it on and proceeded to chase it as far as they could. It must have been quite a laugh for the pilot to see two Pomeranians and a beagle chasing him.
Leah is finally tall enough to paddle the little paddle boat all on her own. She loved that sense of freedom. She and Ava spent many hours just paddling around our little bay looking at water lilies and watching the crayfish, turtles and fish swimming around in the shallows. We did get some good sunset cruises in, even with the restrictions. Dad and I took Leah out to explore one of the islands we go to a lot. It has great swimming and a nice place to pull up the boat. Hopefully when we go back up for our week in September we will be able to have a picnic lunch somewhere, and explore a new island.
With the summer drawing to a close, I am looking forward to one more full week at the cottage and perhaps a couple more weekends in the fall. Wow did that season fly by.