‘We could literally see the flames’: Davidson Lake evacuees leave everything behind

Click to play video: 'Manitoba cottagers wait and worry as wildfire comes closer' Manitoba cottagers wait and worry as wildfire comes closer
WATCH: Some Manitoba cottage owners have been forced to evacuate while others are on standby as wildfires continue to burn in the eastern part of the province. Anya Nazeravich reports – Aug 3, 2021

Joanne Klassen’s cottage sits on its own island in Davidson Lake. It’s been in her family since 1951.

On Monday morning, someone from the mainland boated over and knocked on their door.

“He said, ‘By the way, there’s an evacuation order. You have to be out by 4:00,” Klassen said.

Read more: Nopiming Provincial Park cottage subdivision ordered evacuated as wildfire approaches

They stopped eating breakfast, cleaned and packed their most important belongings, including photos and paperwork for the cottage.

Four trips by boat, back and forth from the island to the mainland, are what it took to leave the rest behind.

The area had been smoky for days, some worse than others depending on the wind, but Klassen said they didn’t know how bad it was until the night before the evacuation.

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“We could literally see the flames and the pink glow in the sky at night,” said Klassen. “What we thought were clouds was actually smoke billowing.”

As they were driving home, Klassen was on the phone with a staff member from Manitoba Parks Reservation Service who said sprinklers were being placed on their property as they spoke.

“I burst into tears,” Klassen said.

Over in Bird Lake, resident Domanie Schadek and her family are on standby, ready to evacuate when they are told.

“It’s just a very surreal feeling,” Schadek said.

Her grandfather cleared the block their cottage sits on with a machete and built it with Schadek’s father.

The thought of leaving and not knowing if the cottage will be there when they come back brings Schadek to tears.

“When I packed my stuff, I took a pair of my mom’s slippers. I don’t care about the boat and I don’t care about the TV,” Schadek said. “Any of that stuff, it can all be replaced.”

Read more: Manitoba Wildfire Service reports 120 active fires currently burning in province

Properties are under “value protection” according to Don Hallett from Manitoba Wildfire Service, a tried-and-true method to help save properties and the primary means of protecting communities.

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“When we can wet down an area, the behaviour of the fire will change dramatically in a more damp setting,” said Hallett.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources of Ontario tells Global News the fire threatening Davidson Lake residents in Manitoba is not under control. It currently spans 188,236 hectares.

“Helicopters with buckets and water-bombing airplanes are being used to slow the fire,” the spokesperson added. “Bulldozer lines are being used to improve access and ignition crews are working to bring the fire to its natural boundaries.”

When residents will be able to return to their cottages is still unknown. Schadek said her family packed enough for two weeks if they need to evacuate to the city, but said their concern for the situation runs deep.

“You sort of have to accept that you don’t have control over the situation.”

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