View topic - Our Campsite was on FIRE!! What Should We Have Done?

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PostPosted: September 1st, 2018, 4:26 pm 
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Location: Courtice Ont
This happened on our hike, but I'm posting the story here because I'm sure I'll get good feedback.

I wanna know if we should have stayed and tried to put it out or leave (which we did)? So here's story, I'll try to keep it under a 1000 words LOL.

It was Friday Aug 17. We were completing the La Clouche Trail in Killarney Prov Park. It was our last night and we were on Topaz Lake (H7). We did the trail counter clockwise this time. We just put our packs down and I looked up and on a bit of a ridge I noticed the fire. We had to make a quick decision (try and put it out or get the hell out of dodge). The distance from the lake to the fire was about 50 meters and the fire was spreading quick. The fire was also between us and the trail out back to the main hiking trail (we keep wondering how we missed it when we hiked into our site).

About 10 mins after we noticed the fire the helicopter was right over our heads, the response time was extremely impressive.

I made the decision to leave and to complicate things even more we were all out of water and had to pump our bottles at least half full. We headed out and hiked to H4, I was completely exhausted, but the whole time I kept thinking we should have tried to put it out.

BUT here's where I'm just a bit peeved and dumb-fonded by what happened next. The following day when we hiked out, we got back to our car and NOTHING !!! I would have assumed that there would have been a notice on my car to check in at the visitor center or even something saying that the warden would like to see us. The park knew we were the group on that site that night. Do they not care?? do they not wanna know why a fire broke out when there's an active fire ban. Even my son who has very little backcountry camping experience said that someone is gonna wanna talk to us for sure, however we were all wrong. We got to our car, we went and had a shower, we got back in the car and we drove home.

Whenever all of us in this forum check in, we're ask our tent colour, fly colour, tarp colour, canoe colour, pack colour (if hiking) emergency contact and so on. I've never had a problem giving all this info but now I think, whats the use??

I've posted a picture that my daughter took, but like all pics it doesn't do it justice. I had to re-size the picture for this forum and a lot of the fire on the right side (which was the worse) got cut off. Also, it was spreading in a hurry because of the pine needles. Maybe we could have put it out, maybe we should have tried IDK, but if we didn't succeed at exstinguishing it we would have been cut off from the trail to get out.

Maybe I'm over thinking this, but I still can't get over the fact that Parks Ontario doesn't want to know what the hell happened.


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PostPosted: September 1st, 2018, 9:29 pm 
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It would be a good idea to contact the park office and tell them your story. Once safe, then notifying park staff of what you saw can help them and is always the best action to do. On your question, I'm glad you didn't try to put a fire like that out. It would have put you in more danger than you were already in.

When we came across a fire in Wabakimi this year, we used our In Reach to text our daughter of where we thought the fire was and send the GPS coordinate to Park Staff. Parks contacted us (via our daughter) a day later and told us the status of the fire. They were aware of the fire at the time and it turned out we were out of range and not in danger as they decided not to close the portage trails in that area.

In backcountry parks we have made a habit of informing park staff by e-mail, or visit to the office if convenient, that we completed are trip and are out of the park. Sometimes we provide feedback of the conditions of portage trails and campsites if something was notable. Often times we get positive feedback from park staff when we do this.

On a final note. I'm glad you and your family are safe. That you acted in the interest of your safety first was the best decision to make. I'm also happy to see you deconstruct your situation on this forum. This is a way for you and us to learn and consider what we might do. It is an interesting experience especially knowing the outcome wasn't an injury or tragedy.

Wishing you well and happy pursuits in the outdoors in the future and thanks again for posting.

Ken


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PostPosted: September 3rd, 2018, 6:59 am 
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Quote:
The park knew we were the group on that site that night. Do they not care?? do they not wanna know why a fire broke out when there's an active fire ban


I could tell you several stories describing cluelessness on the part pf some park staff but I won't... I wouldn't expect too much if seasonal staff are being hired on contract and the contracts go to the lowest bidder.

The more senior staff may have been called away to help fight forest fires if it was during a time when fire danger was high.

PS.... just reading through some historical accounts on the natural history of Ontario... it seems that Elizabeth Simcoe, the wife of the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, was a bit of a pyromaniac and enjoyed setting forest fires. In those days, about 1791, forest fires weren't seen as being the worst possible thing that could happen. A good cleansing fire would bring in wildlife, encourage food plant production and open up old forests making travel easier. John Graves Simcoe didn't last long in muddy York (now Toronto) having to leave for health reasons after several years. Maybe it was from having inhaled so much smoke... anyway, poor Elizabeth cried and cried and cried when the Simcoes had to leave for stodgy old England.

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PostPosted: September 3rd, 2018, 10:00 pm 
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Sudbury fire 114 0.2 Ha Cause: Human, Date Started: August 17, 2018, 17:57

The fire was human-caused. Probably by campers from the previous day or earlier that day.
This was at the hight of the Sudbury 33 fire and all resources would have been deployed.
It was probably pick up by a helicopter crew flying between the Sudbury airport and the Sudbury 33 fire.
This was a very small fire so it may have not even been reported to the park staff for several days.
The Killarney administration also looks after the French River park and they we up to their necks just trying to keep people safe and out of the French River area.


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PostPosted: September 4th, 2018, 9:38 am 
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Wilsauceez wrote:
...
BUT here's where I'm just a bit peeved and dumb-fonded by what happened next. The following day when we hiked out, we got back to our car and NOTHING !!! I would have assumed that there would have been a notice on my car to check in at the visitor center or even something saying that the warden would like to see us. The park knew we were the group on that site that night. Do they not care?? do they not wanna know why a fire broke out when there's an active fire ban. Even my son who has very little backcountry camping experience said that someone is gonna wanna talk to us for sure, however we were all wrong. We got to our car, we went and had a shower, we got back in the car and we drove home.

Whenever all of us in this forum check in, we're ask our tent colour, fly colour, tarp colour, canoe colour, pack colour (if hiking) emergency contact and so on. I've never had a problem giving all this info but now I think, whats the use??
...
Maybe I'm over thinking this, but I still can't get over the fact that Parks Ontario doesn't want to know what the hell happened.


There seems to be a common misconception that Ontario Parks is somehow proactively keeping track of people. The info they ask for when you register is for search and rescue to use in trying to locate you if and only if they have a reason to go looking for you in the first place. For example when your relatives report you missing a week after you were supposed to be home.

If you take a look at the Ontario Forest Fire Info Map you will see that almost all recorded forest fires are attributed to Lightning. http://www.gisapplication.lrc.gov.on.ca/ForestFireInformationMap/index.html?site=AFFES_ONLine&viewer=AFFES_ONLINE Fires occur naturally, particularly this year in Ontario. Fires can also smolder under ground for days before breaking out into flame.

Do you have any particular reason to think that fire had even been observed and reported by the time you returned to your vehicle? Did you report the fire to the park office once you were able to? Had the fire perhaps already been observed and reported a day or more before you were booked on that site? How many other groups were also hiking the LaCloche trail in the same time period? How many groups - both hiking and canoeing - could possibly have been in the area of that campsite? Had there been any lightning storms any time in (at least) the week prior to the date you observed the fire?


Perhaps the biggest take away from experiences like this is the full and complete understanding that you and only you are fully and completely responsible for your safety in the back country - even in parks as heavily trafficked and groomed as Killarney and Algonquin. No one is keeping track of you, no one is watching out for you and no one is going to pull your chestnuts out of the fire.

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PostPosted: September 4th, 2018, 11:09 am 
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"Perhaps the biggest take away from experiences like this is the full and complete understanding that you and only you are fully and completely responsible for your safety in the back country - even in parks as heavily trafficked and groomed as Killarney and Algonquin. No one is keeping track of you, no one is watching out for you and no one is going to pull your chestnuts out of the fire."

Ted likes. :thumbup:


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PostPosted: September 5th, 2018, 6:29 am 
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Location: Courtice Ont
Do you have any particular reason to think that fire had even been observed and reported by the time you returned to your vehicle? Did you report the fire to the park office once you were able to? Had the fire perhaps already been observed and reported a day or more before you were booked on that site? How many other groups were also hiking the LaCloche trail in the same time period? How many groups - both hiking and canoeing - could possibly have been in the area of that campsite? Had there been any lightning storms any time in (at least) the week prior to the date you observed the fire?


Perhaps the biggest take away from experiences like this is the full and complete understanding that you and only you are fully and completely responsible for your safety in the back country - even in parks as heavily trafficked and groomed as Killarney and Algonquin. No one is keeping track of you, no one is watching out for you and no one is going to pull your chestnuts out of the fire.[/quote]



Let me try an answer these...

I'm guessing the fire was reported seeing how the helicopter circled for approximately an hour. Or maybe they were just having fun doing loops. Pretty sure that helicopters have radios and the need to tell the park office the following day was unnecessary. We did try several times to call 911 but we had no signal. Was the fire already there??? IDK, does the park let you book campsites where there's an active fire?? This is how it would have sounded when we checked in "Sure you guys can book H7, but I have to warn you it's on fire so be careful" LMAO...How many other groups? Lots I guess but IDK, HOWEVER when you book the trail you book specific campsites on specific nights. They would know that our group was on that site that night. That particular lake is a daytime play ground for people who boat up the Baie Fine or come from Artist Lake it's semi-impossible to canoe into Topaz Lake, just in case you were thinking of going there. Lighting storms?? Ya actually that was the first thing I checked when I got home, there was a lighting storm in that area on July 23, maybe that was what caused the fire in Aug but again IDK.

No one is keeping track of you, no one is watching out

Actually if you ever do this hike you'll see that they are keeping track of you. Once again you must book specific sites on specific nights. Do some people get off schedule?? sure it happens, but on this hike, not very often. Maybe your thinking of the Lake Superior Coastal Trail were you just book how many nights you want, not what site(s).

Did I say at any time I needed some sort of search and rescue?? If you read my post it actually states that I still think we could have possible put the fire out, instead of leaving. If the water source was closer we would have definitely tried. At no time did I/we run around screaming for someone to come rescue us. We carried on down the trail and set up camp at H4, luckily it was open.

Perhaps the biggest take away is don't post hiking threads on canoe camping forums. I know there are members on this forum who, like myself, do both and I was hoping to hear from them. If you don't know how hiking in Killarney is regulated I'm not sure why you would comment. But thxs for the feedback.


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PostPosted: September 5th, 2018, 7:40 am 
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Don't get too cheesed off, Wils... I am sort of in agreement that park staff are looking out for trouble, if it is serious enough. The worst case I saw in Killarney being when a helicopter flew around, poking around here and there for two days running, trying to locate kids that played hooky on a school trip. They confessed later on that they found a cave somewhere and stayed a night or two, playing a big joke on the teacher, who was going raving nuts looking for them.

There was a helicopter on the scene observing the fire it seems, so maybe from the POV of park staff, it was no biggie.

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PostPosted: September 5th, 2018, 8:24 am 
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@frozentripper
Ok first post but not my first rodeo in the wilderness, camping, canoeing or parks.
I read your comment about clueless parks people and lowest bidder. With the exception of some large operations like Algonquin Park that have contractors looks after some of the large campgrounds, most are not contracted out. You have a full time park superintendent as the only year round staff in many provincial parks. You have a senior parks clerk and assistant superindendent and a senior maintenance person or two work past park closing time, sometimes year round if there is a big construction project happening that year. Park wardens of course tend to be more experienced people but still mostly fairly young because these are seasonal jobs...5 months a year or so. Most everyone else are students...16-24 years old generally. And yes, with a system like this there are some of the "horror stories" of staff issues. However, I have a very close relative who works at a provincial park and I can tell you that the stories of staff issues is extremely minor relative to the many many many - daily almost - camper issues. You want to hear stories......... and keeping track of whereabouts of dozens of campers????

And yes, Parry Sound 33 was taking a huge amount of resources and yes because of the proximity the helicopter would have been not that far away. I was actually surprised that Killarney was allowed to continue operating during this fire crisis. although lightning does account for a lot of fires so many are still caused by human carelessness. As a volunteer firefighter I can tell you we still had several reports of campfires occurring throughout the fire ban in a township not terribly far away.

Curious they didn't try to track you down to see if you were the cause of the fire Willsauce. The fire is listed as being human caused 0.2 ha. I would have suggested to contact the park and taken a proactive stance instead of waiting for someone to track you down.

As for putting it out...pretty unlikely you would have been able to do anything meaningful unless it was in its very very early stages. AS someone who has spent enough time on the end of a hoseline, it is incredible how much water it takes to knock down a fire even though from the photo it wasn't large in terms of flame height...certainly not something that you would have been in immediate danger...I have walked around and almost through flames like that many times. But caution is usually the better avenue to take, especially when your efforts would almost have been futile.

So, you went for a hike, you looked back and saw your campsite on fire, you left the area, there was no note on your car so you just went home? Again, all good except you should likely have checked in with someone...even though the park was not babysitting you. Glad you made it out safe and the fire was very small (0.2 ha it seems from fire map).


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PostPosted: September 5th, 2018, 9:04 am 
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Wilsauceez wrote:
...
Actually if you ever do this hike you'll see that they are keeping track of you. Once again you must book specific sites on specific nights. Do some people get off schedule?? sure it happens, but on this hike, not very often. Maybe your thinking of the Lake Superior Coastal Trail were you just book how many nights you want, not what site(s).

....


This is where there still seems to be a big misconception. Yes you book by site in Killarney. No that doesn't mean anyone is keeping track of you.

I understand that you didn't require search and rescue. Do you understand that you're expectation that the park would both (a) have the resources to go hunting for your parked vehicle and (b) proactively try to follow up with you - and every other person who might possibly have been in the area of that site over the course of however many days - gives a really really strong indication that you, at least subconsciously, think the Provincial Park staff are also guardian angels keeping an eye on you?


There is another serious issue here. While you expected the Park to go to great time, effort, and expense to follow up with you, you made at most a half hearted effort to follow up with the Park. At the same time that you are saying the Park must have known what was happening because you saw the helicopter, it is clear that you don't think the helicopter observation was enough information for the Park. Given that you appear to have strongly felt that more communication was required the responsibility was yours to make sure that happened.

Did you climb a ridge to try and get a cell signal? I see lots and lots and lots of "on location" pictures from Killarney these days, including groups who post daily on trips - from their cell phones.

When you got back to your parked car you were in control of your actions, you were not in physical danger, why did you not walk into the Park office and verify that the fire had been reported and was being managed?


This topic is just as relevant to canoeing as it is to hiking and other back country travel. Your response to the situation of "why wasn't someone following up with me???" as opposed to "we checked in with the office when we could..." is a huge red warning flag that you don't understand either the risks or responsibilities that you take on when undertaking a back country trip.

I know this isn't the warm fuzzy, 'how terribly irresponsible of the Park' response that you were looking for.

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PostPosted: September 6th, 2018, 7:04 am 
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Just to add, uh... some more fuel to the fire, here's the policy statement on fires in KPP, which suggests that burns in a wilderness park may not be an entirely bad thing. Pure speculation, of course, on how park staff felt about it, but it's possible that there might have been someone thinking it might be good in the natural scheme of things, as long as humans or property aren't endangered.

Quote:
3.2.2 Fire

The occurrence of natural fire in a wilderness environment is recognized as an integral component of natural succession.

As Killarney is a relatively small wilderness park, allowing a natural fire to run its course will not normally be desirable except where prior study has delineated a particular site that would benefit from fire. In such a situation, a natural fire could be allowed to burn under supervision unless it threatens human life, park and private property or lands outside the park.

Fire suppression techniques will have as minimal an effect as possible on the wilderness environment. Aircraft will continue to be used for fire detection and control.




https://www.ontario.ca/page/killarney-p ... #section-2



My gut tells me that if staff had really wanted to charge someone to make them pay for the costs of putting out the fire, and throw in the max $25,000 fine and/or three months in jail, they could have done so without too much trouble.

Thanks for the clarification on contract staff, YK... my comment had to do with the realities of government work of which I've seen plenty over the years. Probably the same sort of mix of experienced and clueless in business as in government... no getting around it, it is what it is.

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