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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How can you promise something you can't promise?

During the last week of the summer we stayed up at the cottage and experienced for the first time in my 45 years of cottaging the most terrifying thing - a cottage down the lake caught fire. Friends of ours who had just left our place to go home called to say there was a fire at the cabin across from theirs. We all jumped in the boat after calling the Park rangers (calling 911 is useless as there are no municipal emergency numbers for water access cottages on our lake and which are under provincial jurisdiction)

As soon as we were out of our little bay we could see the black smoke billowing around the point.

And then we saw the actual fire. In 15 minutes it had gone from the size of a campfire to this.

Boats from all over the lake were gathering in front of the site and within a half an hour the first plane arrived which was able to fill its pontoons with water and drop it on the fire.

We all had to admit it was pretty cool to watch the precision with which the pilots dumped the water on what was a very small area.

Fifteen or so minutes after the first plane arrived the second one flew in and it was a real water bomber that can fill its belly with thousands of gallons of water.

It scooped up belly after belly full of water and made at least 20 passes over the fire.

It looked huge to us sitting on the lake in our little boats. Fortunately the wind was off shore so the fire did not spread to the woods. If it had been blowing back into the trees it could have spread rapidly as the summer had been so dry. Our cottage is on the same side of the lake so conceivably it could have been in danger if it had turned into a real forest fire.

Although we stayed and watched the planes until the fire was completely out and we went back the next morning to see the damage - one cabin was completely destroyed but luckily the main one was untouched - our youngest was very shaken by the whole incident.

Over a month later he still asks me every night before bed, "Is everything is going to be okay?"
Then, after I reassure him everything is going to be fine he asks, "No fires, right Mum?"
And I respond, "No fires," but he then says, "You promise?"

I am not sure what to say to that one. I promise that we have smoke detectors (with working batteries) on each floor and they are hooked up to the alarm company and if they go off the fire department responds immediately (I know this because they did when cookies were burned) and we check to see that the oven and coffee maker are off before we go to bed every night but I can't promise him that there will never be a fire either at home or at the cottage and I hate that I can't promise him that. I can't imagine what it is like for a family who has lived through a house fire. How do they ever sleep again? How do they reassure their children that they are safe when they weren't? I guess it's something you can't think about too much like so many of the other dangers that surround us everyday. In the meantime we will continue to go through our bedtime ritual together as long as he needs to.


  1. One of my worst fears at the cottage.
    I'm wondering if those planes work on small lakes because there's no way the local fire department and truck could do anything if our place caught fire.

  2. It quickly puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

  3. How scary! You are a good neighbor to rush to the rescue. I’ve never seen planes dump water – very cool! My son still remembers a fire next door from when he was barely 3. It’s not a bad lesson to be careful of fire AND to have functional smoke detectors. We also have fire ladders in 2 upstairs bedrooms.


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