The fires have passed and the smoldering debris has been shut down by weeks of rain; now cabin owners on Nemeiben Lake can start to rebuild.
“The first wave of fires took about 15 cabins and the second wave which I was involved in, we probably lost about three cabins out of 17 that were left,” said Bill Elliot, one of the cabin owners who stayed put while the rest of the lake homes were evacuated.
With a fishing boat and a GPS, Elliot battled through thick smoke as he coordinated fuel delivery drop-offs with Saskatchewan Resource Management officers, so he and a friend could refuel the multiple sprinkler systems on his neighbour’s cabins, making sure they didn’t burn to the ground.
With the chaos behind him, Elliot said he felt a little lost.
“It was such an adrenaline high for three weeks and then when it was over it was like, ‘okay what am I going to do now?’” Elliot said. “It was quite a rush and it got personal because we weren’t going to let these cabins burn no matter what we had to do.”
What Elliot sees now on Nemeiben Lake are cabin owners looking to put the past behind them and start to rebuild their futures.
“I’ve talked to just about everyone and the cleanup is going on and I don’t know anyone yet who has said no we’re not going to rebuild,” he said, adding they’ve shipped about 10,000 pounds of metal, concrete and burnt debris to the dump already.
Looking back to the times where Elliot saw walls of fire closing in on his cabin, he said it was the provincial resource management team who put forth the extra effort making sure he was fueled up and safe. Elliot said he’s made lifelong friends with the agents he worked with.
Area residents organized a concert in August welcoming people back to Nemeiben Lake. Ironically rain drenched the entire area, forcing the party into Elliot’s cabin.
“And I thought my floor was going to break because it was moving about two inches,” he said.
Elliot said next week the first cabin rebuilt on Nemeiben Lake should be completely finished.
“Everyone is just thankful nobody lost their lives, you really appreciate everyone’s support and I couldn’t believe how people thanked me and Grant and our wives for all our help. It was a team effort. I hate to see cabins burn but it was an experience I’ll never forget,” he said.