Fire in northwestern Ontario prompts evacuation order and alerts in Manitoba's Nopiming Provincial Park

Published Aug. 3, 2021 8:41 p.m. ET

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NOPIMING PROVINCIAL PARK -- People in parts of Nopiming Provincial Park remain on evacuation alert while cottagers in one subdivision have already been forced to leave.

The province said a wildfire burning in northwestern Ontario prompted the evacuation of cottages in the Davidson Lake subdivision near the Manitoba/Ontario border.

Meantime, people at Bird Lake, Flanders Lake and Booster Lake have been told to be ready to leave on short notice.

“So everybody’s taking it pretty seriously,” said Randy Hiebert, a cottage owner at Flanders Lake. “It’s really surreal. It’s not something that you would expect would happen in your own backyard.”

He’s one of several cottagers in Nopiming Provincial Park who got an evacuation alert Monday due to a wildfire in the area.

Photos of the previous family cottage that once sat on the same property, a key hanger made by his brother who recently died and a fur hat are among the items Hiebert packed up.

“You got so many memories, where do you start,” said Hiebert. “These are summer homes, these are winter homes, these are our vacation homes. Outside wherever you live, let’s say in Winnipeg, this is a good part of your life and you can’t just pack that up in short order.”

While Hiebert and his family haven’t been forced to leave yet, they decided to play it safe and prepare for the worst.

Cottagers and residents in Flanders Lake, Booster Lake and Bird Lake have all been told to be ready to leave on short notice.

“It’s really scary and that’s the bad part is we know how devastating this fire could be and how quickly it could spread,” Hiebert said.

People at Davidson Lake were ordered to evacuate by 4 p.m. Monday. Their cottages are closer to a fire burning in northwestern Ontario, which the province said is advancing towards the Manitoba border.

“Today the winds are good but it’s so big it keeps on moving towards the subdivision,” said Jeff Erwin, a structural protection specialist with the Manitoba Wildfire Service.

Crews went in to Davidson Lake with sprinklers to protect cottages and other structures but the only road in and out is now blocked off.

Over at Nopiming Lodge, owner Blaine Guenther is among those now on standby, told to be ready to leave his home and business at Bird Lake if the province expands the evacuation area.

“Keep your suitcase packed is what they’re saying,” said Guenther. “Problem is we live here, right. So we got all of our pictures and our discs and all that stuff, so we got a lot to pack if we have to move out.”

Backcountry camping is banned in Nopiming and fire restrictions remain in place.

Hiebert is hopeful him and his family will be able to return to their cottage when it’s safe and that it’ll be the way they left it when they do come back.

“The authorities are doing what they can but there’s Mother Nature and we just got to respect it and do our part and hope and pray that everything turns out for the best,” he said.

People front-country camping at Bird Lake and Tulabi Falls could also be ordered to leave but only if the evacuation area is expanded. Right now they’re allowed to stay. The province said campers will be notified if that changes.

There are currently 159 fires burning in the province. Nineteen of those are listed as out of control. 

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