Tuesday September 12, 2017

Alberta newlyweds have a 'working honeymoon' as wildfire encroaches on cabin

Rod and Tracy Leland were married earlier this month at a family cabin in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Rod and Tracy Leland were married earlier this month at a family cabin in Waterton Lakes National Park. (Willow + Wolf Wedding Photography)

Listen 6:28

Story transcript

An Alberta newlywed is describing the days following his wedding as a "working honeymoon."

After Rod and Tracy Leland were married on Labour Day weekend at the family's cottage in Waterton Lakes National Park, the couple had to prepare the property for an encroaching wildfire.

Officials issued a mandatory evacuation order on Sept. 8 for the Waterton Lakes National Park and the Waterton townsite area — more than 200 km south of Calgary. Since then, the Kenow wildfire has grown significantly.

On Tuesday afternoon, Rod Leland told As It Happens host Carol Off that he doesn't have any specific news about the condition of his family's property yet. But he says he's hopeful.

Here's more of that conversation:

[On the day of the wedding], did you have any idea at that point that there was a wildfire risk pending?

We were starting to get indications. After our ceremony, we had planned to go up the Akamina Parkway and take our bridal party photos at Cameron Lake and we learned, just before the ceremony, that the Akamina Parkway was closed due to the fire risk. That was on Sunday.

By the time Tuesday came around, the evacuation alert was officially ordered by Parks Canada and we got down to work.

Waterton Lakes National Park Fire

Rod Leland says he put sprinklers on the roof of his cabin to help protect it from fire. (Rod Leland)

We did everything we could in terms of "fire smart" and trying to protect the cabin. I grabbed a chainsaw and cut off some tree limbs that were too near to the cabin and raked out any fuel near the foundation of our structure and started finding a position for sprinklers up on the roof.

Doesn't sound like you got much of a honeymoon after this wedding?

No. [Laughs] Not very much. It was a working honeymoon, I think.

Was your bride involved in all these preparations as well?

Absolutely. She's an incredible woman and an incredible partner and we tag-teamed the whole thing.

She was pulling pictures off the wall of our family cabin and packing up the guest books and I was outside with a rake and she helped me drag all of our deadfall out to the road.

We worked hand-in-hand for two days preparing.

Waterton cottage note

The note the Lelands left on the cabin door. (Rod Leland)

When you say she took the photos and the photo albums, your concern is that it might be destroyed?

Our cabin has been through numerous natural disasters, including major floods, and every time it's kind of the same script, which is grab the guest books — which are signed by every guests that has ever come down and stayed at the cabin. Then, of course, there are some pictures and memories.

It was serendipitous for us because we had a trailer down to transport all of our wedding signage and things like that. So we had extra room and put the memories in and left a note on the door.

We managed to head out a couple hours, actually, before the order came down. So we weren't rushed. We got everything we needed to do done.

What does that cottage mean to you and your family?

It's pretty ineffable. It's hard to describe. One of the things that I said is that a good half of the photos that made it into my birth-to-current-time wedding slideshow were from Waterton.

Rod and Tracy Leland

Rod and Tracy Leland's wedding ceremony in Waterton Lakes National Park. (Willow + Wolf Wedding Photography)

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our interview with Rod Leland above.