‘Parry Sound 33’ fire forces couple to evacuate their home

Joan and Terry Stuckless are happy to be able to be able to stay in their camper-trailer at the home of friends in Gore Bay. The couple were evacuated from their home at Henvey Inlet due to the major forest fire in the Parry Sound region.

Take refuge with Gore Bay friends

GORE BAY—A married couple from Henvey Inlet are taking it day-to-day when it comes to finding out when they will be able to go home due to the major forest fire (Area 33) in the Parry Sound region and they are happy that local friends, Chad and Lara Chevrette, have opened up their home property for them to stay in their camper trailer until they, hopefully, will be able to return home after having to evacuate.

“We are just taking it one day at a time,” stated Joan Stuckless.

“We are just taking one day at a time,” agreed Terry Stuckless who, along with his wife and their two dogs, are staying in their camper trailer at the home property of Lara and Chad Chevrette in Gore Bay.

“It has been nine days since we were told to evacuate our home and it could be another nine weeks before we get to go back,” said Mr. Stuckless. “We are just taking it one day at a  time and pray and hope that things will work out.  All we can do is hope for the best and hope that no lives are lost in the fire.”

The couple have been coming to the Island since 1978. Terry has hunted on the Island for the past 30 years and they have many friends on Western Manitoulin.

“We love it up here,” stated Mr. Stuckless who pointed out, “this is our home right now.”

Mr. Stuckless explained Monday, “a week ago Thursday we were travelling home from Sudbury and when we got home there was smoke all around our house. You could barely see across the river because of the smoke from the fire. But we were told the fire and smoke was heading away from us, towards Georgian Bay. On Saturday morning everything was good until about 4:30 pm when we were told we had three hours to evacuate our home and were asked to help tell people up the river to evacuate as well.”
“We called several of the cottagers in the area we could contact before leaving,” said Ms. Stuckless.

“We were told we had until 8 pm to evacuate,” said Mr. Stuckless.  “So then you have to decide what you’re going to take with you and you panic.” He said the couple took all their important papers, family photos and some clothes etc., but “of course we had to leave our car and recreational vehicles.”

“When we were told we had three hours to evacuate, it was within an hour after that you could see the smoke coming toward our home,” said Mr. Stuckless. “By the time we left and were on the highway four kilometers away we could hardly see anything. I had to put my four-way flashers on the camper all the way to Alban.”

“It’s been nine days since we left,” Mr. Stuckless said Monday. He pointed out residents of the area had been told to evacuate their homes by the local chief and council. “The reserve territory is at the end of our road where we live and the firefighters are set up on the powwow grounds.”

“We check on social media as to what is happening and we keep in touch with one of the guys on the front lines fighting the fire in the community,” said Mr. Stuckless. “We live on the east side of Highway 69 and the fire is on the west side but the firefighters are scared that the fire might jump the highway and hit our village.”

On Tuesday it was reported that smoke from the major fire in the Parry Sound region may force Highway 69 to close. Parry Sound 33 is close to 10,000 hectares in size as of Wednesday.

“Thank God we have people we can stay with here on the Island or I’m not sure what we would do,” said Mr. Stuckless. “We have been here so often in the past the Chevrettes are like family.”

The couple was intending to come up to Gore Bay for the Harbour Days celebrations this past weekend anyway, but being evacuated moved their plans ahead by several days. “I’m glad that at the ecumenical church service on Sunday (in Gore Bay) that people prayed for all the firefighters involved.”                                                                                                                                  

“We can just hope the firefighters get everything under control but in the meantime we will stick around,” said Mr. Stuckless. “I’ve become Chad’s helper,” he quipped.

“We knew that they had to evacuate, we had heard from their daughter,” said Mr. Chevrette. “Terry and Joan were planning to come up for Harbour Days and we told them they could stay here.”

“This is our home for now,” stated Mr. Stuckless, noting they had stayed at Green Acres in Sheguiandah for a couple of days and one night at Norm’s Trailer Park in Kagawong prior to staying in Gore Bay.

“We just hope that everything works out, everyone can go home eventually and that the fire fighters are all safe,”stated Mr. Stuckless. “But at this point they don’t see an end to it. It has been nine days since we had to evacuate and it could be another nine weeks, who knows. We have to take it one day at a time.”