Wildfire destroys eco-tourism lodge

Wildfire destroys eco-tourism lodge
Before and after photos show the extent of the destruction at Moraine Point Lodge on Great Slave Lake, where all eight buildings and their contents were ravaged by wildfire last week, despite fire breaks created to protect the eco-tourism destination.Photo: Rodney Kenny.

Moraine Point Lodge, a beautiful eco-tourism destination on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, was burned to the ground by wildfire last week, leaving the owners in a state of shock.

“It’s a 100 per cent loss – every single building reduced to a pile of rubble,” said Rodney Kenny, one of the lodge owners.

He and his mother, business partners in the lodge, flew there by float plane yesterday to check out the damage after being informed that fire had hit the buildings.

“The main log two-storey lodge, two other log accommodation buildings and five other outbuildings are all gone,” he said.

Kenny said the 20 solar panels that were on the main building literally exploded, spraying glass everywhere.

“ATVs, skidoos and toboggans that were stored were destroyed. The heat was so intense it burned right down to the rock.”

The lodge was on a peninsula that juts out into Great Slave Lake on its west shore in such a way that they felt protected from the Birch Lake fire complex east of Fort Providence, Kenny said. Having been buffered by a cat guard, they thought it was safe.

“It was a perfect fire break location connecting the water on one side of the point to the other. First I was shocked when I got the call. I couldn’t believe it,” Kenny said. “I asked them to send me pictures to confirm it and when I got them, sure enough.

“The main fire camp at Birch Lake was right close. We had even offered the firefighters to use our lodge at no charge. We were the main value at risk in that area. They did a back burn and everything – a controlled burn to separate the peninsula using an old fire break from 30 years ago. We were watching the fire maps daily, and the wind. How it’s possible is what’s shocking.”

Kenny said the lodge and its location were spectacular.

“Every person who ever came out there fell in love with it.”

They had brought in professional log builders from B.C. to construct the lodge and other buildings, all done with selected trees from the surrounding forest and metal roofs. Kenny said the old growth boreal forest on the point was spectacular, with trees over 100 years old. Because of the wind spray off the lake, there was also unique vegetation.

“It was like a tropical rain forest. Biologists who came there were fascinated with the vegetation. The trees were so massive with huge trunks; the forest so old, so majestic. The point jutted out into the lake. It was a beautiful, awe-inspiring setting.”

The lodge was registered for 27 guests, but Kenny said it was roomy, with accommodations in the main lodge and two outbuildings that could have held more. They offered fishing, hiking, birding and wildlife watching, as well as canoeing and sea kayaking, plus snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in winter.

“We are in such a state of shock it is unbelievable,” said Mary O’Brien, Kenny’s mother. “We are so distraught.”

The one bit of good news is that the lodge was insured. Now they have to decide what to do next.

“The buildings are gone. The forest is gone. But the point is still there, jutting out into one of the biggest lakes in the world with incredible views. We are hard working and determined people. Even though it’s 100 per cent destroyed, with some hard work and determination, we could bring it back,” Kenny said.

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