KAGAWONG—A group of approximately 10 visitors to Manitoulin Island are being called heroes after extinguishing a fire that had started at the Kagawong Cedars Cemetery and was headed toward the Kagawong River Valley Park, if not for their quick actions.
“They deserve the credit—they are the heroes,” stated Tom Imrie, a member of the Billings volunteer fire department (and a Billings councillor), of the fire which occurred on Sunday.
Mr. Imrie explained, “basically at 2:05 pm we received a call about a fire at the cemetery, and our firefighters and both sets of fire apparatus responded. On arrival we found a significant portion of the grass, probably 50 percent, had been burned. It was the result of the diligent and brave work of the 10 visitors who used towels and buckets with water to put out the fire that it wasn’t a lot worse. Most of the flames had already been extinguished by the time we got there, and all we had to do was hose everything down so it wouldn’t flare up again, especially since there were 60 kilometre per hour winds blowing.”
Mr. Imrie pointed out “we don’t know the names of all of the people who put out the fire,” he said, pointing out four of them included Rob Lee, Doug McCallum, Alex Ogilvie and Kate McCallum. “These four and the others not only helped to save the cemetery but they saved the River Park because it was obvious the fire was headed that way. (Firefighter) Scott Smith talked to the people after everything was out and tried to get all their names, but all they said was that they were visitors and they love Manitoulin Island.”
After making sure the fire was out entirely, the firefighters began an investigation into what the cause of the blaze had been. “As luck would have it, as we were investigating the just cause, we found it had started at the gate of the cemetery. We were looking for something like cigarette butts or something like that as the cause and while we were standing there we could hear a snapping noise overhead—the hydro wires had become unraveled and were shorting out against each other and it was causing sparks on the grass, which caused the fire and shows how dry the ground is.”
The fire department then called Hydro One which disconnected the live hydro wires and were scheduled to come back to the site on Tuesday to fix any problems.
“It was a remarkable circumstance with sparking hydro wires, high winds, and dry weather conditions,” said Mr. Imrie. “It was the visitors of the community who put the fire out that are the heroes, for using towels and dousing the flames with buckets of water. It was a remarkable effort on their behalf, especially when you consider by the time we received the call it takes about six-seven minutes to respond, and it was obvious someone had tried to put the fire out long before we got the call from 911. They (visitors) deserve the credit for putting the fire out—they were amazing.”