The area around Wadin Bay is charred, but the community itself is green.
A resident says that’s no mistake.
The resort community of Wadin Bay didn’t get away unscathed from this month’s forest fires, but damage was kept to a minimum, said resident Shaun Bergsveinson.
Of the community’s 81 structures, three were decimated, he said.
A fire that threatened but didn’t hit Wadin Bay in 2006 led a group of people to work towards certification under a program called FireSmart. The community was evacuated for 10 days at that time, said Bergsveinson, the acting president of Wadin Bay’s FireSmart committee.
FireSmart encourages people to take proactive measures to protect communities as much as possible from forest fire damage.
Progress to become the province’s first FireSmart community was slow and steady over the next nine years, Bergsveinson said.
The community built a small fire hall, bought fire hoses, pumps, fire hydrants, and sprinklers. People cleaned up sites and learned what acts as fuel when fire approaches, and what is not. This includes dead trees.
The process can be simple: “just clean up the dead stuff and haul it away,” Bergsveinson said.
“It’s a slow process, not everyone believes in it right in the start. It takes some convincing and understanding.”
He said he firmly believes the fire that hit and burnt Wadin Bay’s driest areas, including his own cabin, would have done way more damage without FireSmart.
He recommends communities in the lakelands hop on board with FireSmart.
Watching the fire get closer and closer to La Ronge earlier this month, Bergsveinson said there’s a chance to learn about cleaning up possible fuel for a fire in the future.
“With the airport just north of town, it came in there, and it’s so dry and it just kept smoldering, just kept popping up. The helicopter was at it for days,” he said.
He said FireSmart gave the community the tools and advice it needed.
“It’s just a real eye-opener,” he said.
“Anybody that didn’t believe in it before, I’m sure they will now.”