Three years after wildfire, Namushka Lodge returns

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A Northwest Territories lodge destroyed by fire in 2016 hopes to reopen this summer after its owners embarked on a full rebuild.

Namushka Lodge, 50 km east of Yellowknife, was wiped out when a wildfire moved rapidly south from Reid Lake to Harding Lake in July 2016.

At the time, the Chorostkowski family – which owns the lodge – described "disbelief" as the fire jumped a firebreak, forcing 21 people to abandon the facility in boats on the lake.

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Bryan Chorostkowski maintains his family should have received better communication and more warning from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources about the fire.

"It's hard," he said on Thursday. "Even rehashing this brings back a lot of memories. There was not a structure left standing.

"It's a family place and there were a lot of people that had to agree that [rebuilding the lodge] was really what we wanted to do.

"What it came down to was my mom and dad, who said they weren't going to let the fire be the end of Namushka Lodge. It came down to their determination and will to rebuild it.

"We've had a lot of help, but my mom and dad have put in the majority of the time out there building this place. This is their passion."

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The family had insurance at the lodge, which they first purchased as part of a group in 1982, but the policy did not fully cover more recent renovations and extensions at the property.

Fire burns at the site of Namushka Lodge in 2016
Fire burns at the lodge in 2016.

However, with assistance from friends, local construction boss Niels Konge, and a territorial government program that helps operators "re-invent, improve or expand" their services, rebuilding got under way.

The new-look facility will have an improved main lodge, a sun deck with hot tub, and room for 14 guests, with personal, heated cabins including full bathrooms.

The lodge also has an aurora viewing platform and skylights above its beds, to cater for winter guests.

"We're really hoping to be able to announce an opening date closer to the end of summer. But we've been in the construction business for a lot of years, so I don't want to make any promises that I can't keep until we get a little further along," said Chorostkowski.

"It's going to be a special summer, being able to get to that point where we are able to open it up to guests again. My parents have really missed being the hosts out there."

Chorostkowski says the prospect of another fire coming along is not an immediate concern after several grim wildfire seasons in the past decade.

"To be honest, there's not much left to burn there," he said. "I don't have a fear that there's going to be another wildfire going through there ... probably not till my kids' lifetime.

"In 2016, 2015, and 2014, there were so many fires out there that, essentially, everything has been burned.

"We're still going to take the precautions of putting sprinklers on rooftops, and we've still got our cutline.

"The few things that didn't burn were our fire pumps, because they were running. We've still got those, and they'll be set up – but hopefully they'll just be for watering the grass and the little saplings we have growing."