On the second week of a four-week 500-kilometre canoe trip, a group of young campers spotted a serious fire, and took action.

Canoe trippers

On this most beautiful day with the sun shining and the water at its bluest, we were paddling up Wolf Lake, and spent a couple of hours hiking the gorge to {Laundry Lake}. Later in the afternoon we went on paddling up Dudney Lake and the weather was still beautiful. This lake is surrounded by mountains and cliffs, which make it difficult to see what may be happening in the sky on the other side.

Very suddenly and unexpectedly the sky above us went dark, the wind picked up and there were lightning showers and very little rain. This was a very dry summer.

Of course we gathered up all the canoes and headed for shelter at an island close by. As we passed a point of land we saw lightning hit the east shore of the lake and ignite a fire. The wind was blowing at it from the lake side and pushing it up the mountain going towards that beautiful gorge we had just been hiking.

Our young campers were very concerned that it would destroy so much wilderness, and expressed the will to do something about it. The lake itself was still fairly calm and we were at a short distance. After assessing the situation and keeping everyone together, I decided to go and investigate the fire situation.

With the wind on our side and everyone organized, we attacked the fire with paddles and carried water with our empty food pails. Our paddles will carry the scars for ever. The fire was about 60’ wide by 20’ deep, with the flames biting at the spruce and pine lower branches, trying to make their way up the mountain.

Making sure that everyone was safe at all times, and with great team work, we put out that fire in roughly one hour. That evening during our quiet time, we reflected that not only did we put out a fire, but we had definitely saved maybe a big part of the forest. We realized how much money it could probably have cost our government to fight that fire.

The Kiwanee spirit was with us that day as always to help boost self-esteem for our teens.

Ray Charles, 2001. The author, from Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, is a volunteer who organizes and guides extensive canoe trips for young teenagers at Kamp Kiwanee.
Photo Credits:
Terry Wright [Canoe trippers]

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