A wildfire north of Yellowknife is parked on the doorstep of Gord Gin’s lodge. Watching the trees burn and the animals flee is having a profound effect on him.
“It’s just unnerving, seeing the fire right out your front window – and it’s a beautiful day, you can see the sun,” Gin said on Wednesday evening.
“If we didn’t have a fire, I’d be out fishing.”
Instead, Gin is preparing a steak dinner for a fire crew helping to protect Yellow Dog Lodge, which he owns and which rests at the point between Duncan Lake and Graham Lake.
Fire ZF011, which has sent up a plume clearly visible from Yellowknife for most of the week, has consumed almost the entire vista beyond the water south of Gin’s lodge deck. Duncan Lake is not a small lake, but the forest along all of its eastern shore was burning as of Thursday.
“Friday and Saturday are the two days that I’m very worried about, because the winds will shift to the south,” he said, meaning the fire will be pushed north toward the lodge.
He believes the lodge and its cabins are likely to pull through, thanks to sprinklers, back burns and the efforts of firefighters. Fire retardant has been dropped on the hillside behind the lodge, which Gin described as “full of unburnt tinder.”
He and his three staff, plus lodge mascot Joey the dog, are now watching and waiting.
Three groups of tourists had their reservations cancelled this week in light of the situation, Gin said, adding: “We’ll see what happens for the rest of the year.”
But even if the buildings and the business survive, as he hopes will be the case, the experience of watching the land burn is exhausting in its own right.
“I’m a little bit shattered watching the land go up in smoke,” he said.
“It’s kind-of tough to see … It was a beautiful area, with the land being so pristine up here. You watch the fire go, you watch squirrels scramble, and you wonder how many other animals have lost their homes and what it’s going to impact in the ecosystem.
“We can’t evacuate – we’re air only, and we’ve had so much smoke in here that the plane can’t land to pick us up – so we’ve decided to stick it out. We’ve got lots of provisions, 20 to 30 sprinklers, the camp is well saturated, and I don’t think we’re going to lose the camp. We’re just going to lose the landscape all around us.”