Sunday, June 15, 2008

Forest Fire in Porters Lake

Smoke over highway 107
It's been an anxious couple of days here in the Porters Lake/Mineville/Lake Echo area, but I have just come down from the roof after watching the Quebec water bomber take care of the fire closest to us, I feel like I can relax a bit (and our internet is back!).

Here is the gist of the story from my perspective: Friday afternoon and evening, I was stuck at work while feeling the wind whip in from the north and watching the fire build and seem to engulf Mineville/Porters Lake. I had a long, cold ride home on my bike following another friend from the area in her car, rather than have to stay at a comfort centre overnight (the only road in left to take - it took me 1 hour 50 min to get home, rather than 14 minutes). I'm glad I did, too, because while we were optimistic there would be roads open in the morning, the authorities actually closed everything down even firmer, and I wouldn't have been able to get home at all. Saturday we spent doing yard work, getting updates about who in our church was evacuated next, and who may have lost their homes to the blaze. We listened anxiously to the news station (95.7, God bless you), keeping an eye on the weather vane and watching the fires from the roof as they built. Around 1:30 p.m., we quickly packed everything we may want or need, while I looked at the rest and thought only about how much of our "stuff," in the end, is merely kindling for a fire.

water bomber from roof

The water bomber stopped at sunset and most of the firefighters in the woods were pulled out, with enough left to defend the houses that were threatened. Last night, we went up on the roof and saw the glow from the fires, seemingly just over the ridge. From our house straight across to Mineville is only 5 km, and the fire was 3 km wide. Do you call it a miracle or God's hand, that if the wind were more easterly or more westerly, we could have lost all of Mineville or all of West Porters Lake? Or is it just good luck or nothing at all? I'm just grateful.

The wind died a bit overnight, not that I slept any better for it, waking up every ten minutes to sniff for smoke (if I smelled smoke, it meant the wind direction had changed and we were in its path), or to see if that car going down the road was the RCMP to evacuate us. A friend who lives a kilometre away was evacuated at 10:30 p.m. Earlier in the evening, he went up to Snow's Lake and saw three fires burning, one of them on the Western and Northern shore across from him!

water bomber in to fill

By today, the Newfoundland water bomber was accompanied by bombers from New Brunswick and Quebec. Dad and I went down to Capri Island to watch them take on water in the lake. For the most part, I handled the excitement of the conflagration pretty poorly - I couldn't focus, relax, or keep busy. But watching the water bombers at their work has been such a comfort, and so cool. Those guys are amazing, going nonstop hour after hour, dumping the water right where they want it. I feel so warmly towards them, like I have just been liberated by the Allies during the Second World War (on a small scale, of course)

water bomber

We're feeling pretty optimistic tonight. The authorities are still saying the fire is "out of control" and won't even call it "contained" but this evening from the roof, the smoke is not even an eighth of what it was yesterday. The fact that the largest bomber, the Quebec plane, was focusing on the fire over the ridge (rather than the fire near Mineville or Lawrencetown), makes me think they're getting close. Let's pray and hope that the wind favours us this evening, blowing the fire that remains back in on itself.

water bomber

Thanks for all the messages of concern.

Note: the first two pictures are by my mother, taken Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon. The pictures of the water bomber are by me, Sunday afternoon.


Sacred Suzie said...

Oh I am so glad you and your property are OK. That was such a close call! In BC when we had those fires entire communities were destroyed and I thought I finally could stop worrying about things like that and this happened. There was also a fire in Tantallon too! Nothing like what you guys went through though. Thank you so much for sharing the story and the pictures, so frightening but important for people to know. Again, I am so glad you're OK.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Oh my goodness! How scary... I hope that you haven't posted in a few days only because you've been helping out a few others. (Not because the winds turned against you.)

By the way, it's so strange that at the end of this post about the water bombers, my captcha word verification "word" is: ibath

kate smudges said...

That must have been scary ... I hope that the fire is now contained or better, extinguished.

Just noticed that you had 'Your Rocky Spine' on repeat - I love the Great Lake Swimmers and listen to them most days while gardening. 'A Song for the Angels' is one of my favourites. I have never listened to 'Flowers of Saskatchewan' and must track it down.