Saskatchewan wildfires destroy some cabins, while other owners fight to protect theirs
Man sleeps in boat while trading shifts with wife, keeping cabin wet with industrial-grade sprinklers
As more than 100 fires burn across the north, some Saskatchewan cabin owners have seen their property literally go up in smoke, while others are spraying their homes with water to douse flying sparks.
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George Montgrand, whose cabin is on the Clearwater River Dene Nation in northwestern Saskatchewan, saw his home destroyed, along with a truck.
"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," he said. "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."
Montgrand and his family live in the cabin year-round, hunting and living off the land. The cabin was an essential part of that.
- George Montgrand
"I stay there all through the year — it's home to me," he said. "The food price is so high up here and I can't live with that. I kill a moose and it'll last me a whole year."
Montgrand thinks firefighting should be more aggressive and should be started sooner.
"They need to know people use this north country for their livelihood," he said. "There's a lot of people that still live off the land. Not everybody stopped doing that."
While his cabin is nothing but ash now, Montgrand said he will rebuild.
"I'm going back there. I'm not giving up," he said. "It'll grow back. I don't know how many years it will take, but it's going to grow back."
Meanwhile, Mark Paquette is determined to save his cabin.
Flames are currently as close as 300 metres to his recreational property on Nemeiben Lake, north of La Ronge.
For the past two weeks, Paquette and his wife have been busy watering down his buildings with industrial-grade sprinklers and clear cutting neighbouring trees.
"It's very serious," he said. "[The fire] is basically taking out all the trees that it can, it's so dry up here."
Paquette and his wife have been sleeping in shifts, sometimes in their boat, as they wait out the fire, for safety reasons.
'It's very impressive'
"When the fire is very close, and it's active, we basically pack everything up, we put it on our boat and we anchor out about 200-300 metres from the shore, depending on wind direction, of course."
Paquette has seen the huge fire up close, and said it's very impressive.
"All of a sudden you'll hear, it's like the airport, you'll hear a jet sort of sound start up in the forest, followed by a really black smoke," he said. "Then you'll see basically a fireball race across the trees."
Despite the danger, Paquette plans to stay at his cabin until it's too dangerous. He was hoping calm weather Wednesday would continue.
"Last night was the first night in two weeks where we could sleep somewhat, without being on pins and needles all night," he said. "I don't know if we're in the clear or sleeping on a bed of gasoline."
Paquette thanked conservation officers for risking their lives to fight the fires, and for supplying him with fuel for his sprinkler system.