Manitoba

Caddy Lake fire shrinking, evacuation orders lifted in Whiteshell, northwest Ontario

Cottagers and year-round residents are heading back to their properties in Caddy Lake, West Hawk Lake and Ingolf, Ont., after officials from the Manitoba and Ontario governments lifted forest fire evacuation orders Tuesday morning.

Fire detected May 5 in Whiteshell Provincial Park forced dozens to leave area

Vehicles line up early Tuesday morning at the Ingolf, Ont., and West Hawk Lake Road road checkpoint. Parts of Whiteshell Provincial Park were under evacuation orders for more than a week due to a spreading forest fire near Caddy Lake. The order was lifted Tuesday at 8 a.m. CT and residents were allowed to go back to their homes and cottages. (Bill Benson)

Cottagers and year-round residents are heading back to their properties in Caddy Lake, West Hawk Lake and Ingolf, Ont., after officials from the Manitoba and Ontario governments lifted forest fire evacuation orders at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Two forest fires straddling the Manitoba-Ontario border, first detected May 5, forced dozens of evacuations. One burned in the Nopiming Provincial Park area east of Beresford Lake and into Ontario, while the other fire was in Whiteshell Provincial Park, northeast of Caddy Lake, and northwestern Ontario.

Bill Benson and his wife had three hours to gather their belongings and get out 10 days ago. He has been staying on the south side of West Hawk Lake, across the lake from his property, watching the fire puff clouds of smoke into the sky nearby.

"It almost feels surreal. You've been living in another environment for 10 days and you've said 'goodbye' to your place and hopefully you'll see it again,'" Benson said. "And then all of a sudden you're in the situation of going back."
A boat access evacuee returns to a property on West Hawk Lake Tuesday morning. (Bill Benson)

Benson said he was most looking forward to getting back into his daily routines.

"Having a nice soak in our bathtub, get cleaned up, doing some laundry and just looking around," he said. "Just looking forward to spending time in our own veranda and our own place tonight."

Shaun Harbottle, owner of Crescent Beach Cottages and motel in West Hawk, also had to leave his rental properties behind, as did his tenants. 
A forest fire northeast of Caddy Lake, to the north of West Hawk Lake, puffs smoke into the air on May 9. (CBC)

"It's nerve-racking to sit there and watch flames across the lake. You're kind of sitting there wondering what will happen," he said.

Residents were excited about returning to their cabins and homes, he said.

"People are very anxious. They want to get home," he said.

People were asked to leave last week because the fire near Caddy Lake was spreading and edging towards more densely populated areas. Many homes and cottages were under evacuation orders, but because it is still early in the season, a lot of cabins were still unoccupied.

Evacuees were anxious in those first few days after being forced to leave. Harbottle and others thought people weren't given enough information about the spread or severity of the fire, or whether particular lots were at greater risk of being burned.

But fire updates given to property owners at community meetings over the past few days helped calm nerves, Harbottle said.

The four to five families that rent the cottages owned by Harbottle are looking forward to heading back into cabin country, he said.

"It's their homes. They live here year-round. It's much harder on them," he said.

On Tuesday morning, Harbottle said none of his lots were lost in the fire and he wasn't aware of any minor fire damage to his properties.

Evacuation orders in fire-affected areas over 100 kilometres to the north are expected to be lifted Tuesday afternoon.

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