McGregor Bay citizen volunteers recognized for firefighting efforts

The scene of the fire in McGregor Bay earlier this summer.

Two men keep fire from spreading to Killarney Provincial Park

SAULT STE. MARIE—Two McGregor Bay citizen volunteers who battled a blaze earlier this summer, keeping it from spreading to nearby Killarney Provincial Park, have both been recognized for their heroic efforts by Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha.

Mr. Mantha presented letters  and certificates to both Scott Beaumont and his buddy Brian Armstrong, both from Sault Ste. Marie, “for what they did to put out a forest fire on McGregor Bay. This is in recognition of the work they did and their heroic efforts to put the fire out.”

“Luckily, they both had an awareness of what to do in a forest fire turned this into a good news story, one that could have gone very badly,” said MPP Mantha. “They both deserve this recognition. Absolutely.”

As was reported in the June 29 edition of The Expositor, “Scott Beaumont and his buddy Brian Armstrong, both from Sault Ste. Marie, were sitting around at a nearby camp at 11:30 pm following a day working on an island in McGregor Bay when they noticed a glow on the horizon. At first, they thought it might be the moon rising, having been bright the night before, but soon skyrocketing flames and billowing smoke gave lie to that hope.

Less than an hour later, the pair were engaged in what Mr. Beaumont blithely described as “quite an experience.”

The duo quickly realized that what they were seeing was a fire, a serious one at that, especially given the dry conditions in the bush. They decided to investigate the situation to decide what they should do.

“We thought we might have to evacuate,” Mr. Beaumont told The Expositor, explaining he called 911 to report the fire.

The pair got in a boat and took on the tricky job of navigating the waterway in the dark, quite the accomplishment in and of itself.

As they got closer to the fire, Mr. Beaumont and his friend soon realized they were looking at a serious structure fire; one that was spreading to the surrounding bush and onto the nearby mainland. The mainland stood barely 200 feet from the fire and embers launched from hollow pines, burning like freestanding flamethrowers and drifting on strong gusting winds to settle in the dry bush. If the fire took hold on that peninsula, the duo realized, it would quickly spread out across the forest and threaten nearby Killarney Park.

Another neighbour had arrived at the fire scene first and was desperately trying to contain the fire with the water from a fire pump. So now there were three civilians working to contain the fire. There were two pumps available at that point and the trio dismantled one of the pumps and took it to the fire on the mainland.

“We made that our first priority,” said Mr. Beaumont, recognizing the serious potential that fire presented, stumbling ashore in the dark with only flashlights and a headlamp to augment the light from the raging fires on the nearby island.

Mr. Beaumont and his friend soon had the immediate danger on the mainland quenched, but the fire on the island was gaining ground. The valiant neighbour’s efforts were not winning the battle at that point.

Even the return of the second pump was not proving to be enough. Mr. Beaumont decided to go in search of another pump. Before leaving the island, he investigated a nearby boathouse and discovered a dismantled fire pump in there.

“It was in pieces and some squirrels had obviously decided to store things in it,” said Mr. Beaumont. Even though he had never assembled a fire pump, the engineer figured it out in short order, finding the nozzles and other parts needed to get the pump running.

The two fire pumps the trio had are maintained by the cottage association, but the newly discovered pump was a private affair and not as well maintained. Nonetheless, the pump fired up right away once assembled and then there were three. With the three pumps going full tilt, they managed to at least contain the fire to the structure and doused the nearby trees.

The men had called the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNF) for assistance in putting out the fire. However, once they received the call and the dispatcher discovered the fire was on a private island, the level of urgency seemed to drop significantly. The men were told that help could not be provided until morning and they were told to do the best they could.

Realizing that they were on their own, and understanding what was at stake, the trio redoubled their efforts.

“It isn’t just the property that was in danger,” Mr. Beaumont told The Expositor. “This is a beautiful area and we are not very far from Killarney Provincial Park. If the fire was left alone to burn for seven hours, there is no telling what could happen.”

So it was that the three private citizens, wielding what was available and at hand, battled through the night to save McGregor Bay from disaster all by themselves.