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Welcome To The Website of the
Upper French River Cottagers Association


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The French River is located in Ontario, Canada, and defines the boundary between Parry Sound and Nipissing Districts. The French River flows southwest from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay. The "Upper" French River lies between Lake Nipissing and the Chaudiere Dams at Dokis First Nation. An historic First Nation and fur trade canoe route, the French River is now a Provincial Park, the home to citizens of Dokis First Nation, and the summer residence of hundreds of cottagers.

The Members menu (at left) displays Membership Information and Form, but more options are available when members Log In.


March News

Web Site Upgrade
Posted March 28, 2017

A scheduled upgrade of the web site will occur on April 1, 2017. A brief interruption in access to the web site will occur on that date.

Photo Contest
The UFRCA Photo Contest entry deadline of April 15, 2017 is fast approaching. See all information on the Social and Events page:    

Members - The March 2017 Newsletter was distributed March 9. If you did not receive the e-mail notification but should have, contact us immediately.

February News

Posted February 23, 2017

An announcement was distributed to all UFRCA members and many past members and is available here. 

January News


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Thanks to Kathy LaBranche for sending this image she discovered in Banff. Click on the image to enlarge, and "think about summer".

December News

Special December Newsletter
The Special December 2016 Newsletter was distributed to both current members and many past members. To view the newsletter click here. 

FOCA Elert December, 2016
Posted December 18, 2016

Not many cottagers on the Upper French have hydro, but for those that do, there is some interesting news in this month's issue of FOCA's Elert News. There are also some developments occurring with regard to permits for dock and other shoreline work under the Public Lands Act. For the December 2016 Elert News, click here.

Norma Baskett - Bragdon Island
Posted December 10, 2016

The UFRCA extends its condolences to the Ivan Baskett and the family of Norma Baskett, who died on December 3, 2016. The obituary may be seen at 

More Unfortunate News Regarding Halcyon Cottage
Updated December 7

In late November, we posted news that Dolores Hill from Halcyon Cottage had died in October. We have recently received further news that Dave & Shin Hill died on December 1 as a result of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at their home in Green, OH. Our condolences once again to the Hill family and to Bud Smith, brother of the late Dolores Hill. A memorial service is planned for December 10, 2016, at 10 a.m. at the Greensburg United Methodist Church in Green. The obituary notice has been posted at 
Also, see 

The 2017 version of the UFRCA Photo Contest is now open. Awards will be presented at the 2017 Annual General Meeting. See the Gallery for past entries and award winners. Note that the contest is open to current UFRCA members only. On the Events page, click on Photo Contest for all the rules and regs for 2017.

November News

More on the Lake Nipissing Fishery - Winter Walleye Fishing OK'd
Updated November 30, 2016

Paul Cormier was the UFRCA representative on the Fishery Advisory Council in 2013. Paul has written this response to the recent media articles shown below regarding the Lake Nipissing Fishery. 

See previous reports below in September News.
See November media reports at and


Dolores Hill – Halcyon Cottage
Posted November 23, 2016

We extend our condolences to the Hill family and to Pauline and Bud Smith, whose sister Dolores Hill died recently at the age of 86. See

More on the West Nipissing Spending Scandal
Posted November 20, 2016
Also see reports below in September News.

Dokis In The News
Posted November 10, 2016

See the Dokis page for recent articles on the new Dokis Museum and a CBC Radio feature on the Hydro-Mega electric project.

October News

October Newsletter
Posted October 17, 2016

The October, 2016 Newsletter was sent by e-mail on October 17 to current members - those who have paid their membership fees for the 2016-17 season. If you did not receive the newsletter but should have, contact immediately. The October newsletter has been posted in "Newsletters" in the Members Menu. Logging-in is required.

Closing the cottage routines - keep potential thieves in mind
Originally posted September 24, 2015. West Nipissing Police have sent this communication as a reminder to keep would-be thieves in mind when closing for the winter. And reduce off-season environmental damage by following many common sense suggestions. To view, click here. 

September News

Lake Nipissing Walleye Fishery
Updated September 26, 2016

Several recent media reports highlight the continuing discussion and controversy regarding the Lake Nipissing Walleye fishery.
1. Commercial Fishery Closed
The Nugget September 8, 2016

The commercial fishery on Lake Nipissing was recently closed for the season. See details at  
2. Bob Goulais Blog
3. Nipissing First Nations wants to have winter walleye fishing closed
The Nugget September 12, 2016


4. The Nugget September 14, 2016
5. The Nugget September 23, 2016


West Nipissing Scandal Results in OPP Charges
Posted September 14, 2016

Allegations of spending irregularities by some West Nipissing Municipality officials have resulted in charges being laid by the OPP.

Summer Winding Down
The first hints of colour are showing on hardwood trees. Temperatures are less summerlike, and fall will soon be here. Here is a summary of summer news.

Successful UFRCA Events
The dock sale, AGM at Solid Comfort, and the Fish Fry at Chaudière Lodge all were very successful. Draft minutes from the AGM have been posted in the Members Section of the web site in "Annual Meetings". Elected to the Board at the AGM were Dave Minden, Sam Goodwin, Peter Rooney, Holly Waters, Jeff Hamilton, Liz Gallagher, and Liz Gribbon. Subsequently, Kathy LaBranche was appointed to the Board, and there remains one vacancy. The first Board of Directors meeting will be held September 12, and the Board will elect the Officers and appoint committee chairs at that time.

Water Level Remains Low
Due to the lack of rain during the summer, the level of Lake Nipissing and the Upper French remains low at about 20 cm below the summer range.

August News

Fire at Obashking Lake Near Wigwam Point
MNRF is seeking the public's assistance regarding a fire on August 4 at Obashking Lake, situated west of Wigwam Point, south of Lake Nipissing. See for information. Todd Thomas from Sandy Haven was alerted to the smoke from the area and responded to it, but he could not access the area by boat. Three Twin Otter water bombing aircraft from Sudbury spent about an hour scooping water from near Wigwam Channel and extinguishing the fire. A MNRF land crew were helicoptered in the day following.    
See Sandy Haven's Facebook page for a video clip of the Twin Otters in action. 

Fire Ban Lifted

The fire ban was lifted on August 15.
Posted August 9, 2016

Please be advised that all burning permits are now suspended until further notice (permits may be extended or money refunded). As of Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 there is a Complete Fire Ban in the Municipality of West Nipissing.
Richard Maranda
Fire Chief 


Award Winning Photos Now Posted
August 3, 2016

The award winning photos and entries have now been posted in the Gallery. Congratulations to the winners for some spectacular scenes. The minutes from the Annual General Meeting will be posted when they become available later in the summer, but in the meantime, thank you again to our hosts at Solid Comfort Fishing Camp for another great experience. Close to 80 people attended the AGM.

July News

SUMMER IN HIGH GEAR – Upcoming Events
Saturday July 23

Dock sale at the Moore cottage. South shore of Burnt Island east of Gibraltar. N 46.213019 W 79.870694 Please respect start time. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday July 31
Annual General Meeting at Solid Comfort Fishing Camp. Registration opens at 9:30. Meeting from 10 to noon, featuring: photo contest awards, puzzle and book swap, UFRCA T-shirts, and more. Boat pool please. New members always welcome. For details see the AGM Poster. 
Sunday August 7
Chaudiere Fish Fry Social at Chaudiere Lodge, 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Open to all. RSVP to Chaudiere Lodge by July 31, 705-763-2220 or sign up at the AGM. $25/person, $12.50 children 12 and under. Live entertainment. For details, click here. 

Posted July 15, 2016

As a follow-up to our recent bulletin on Emergency Services on the Upper French River, UFRCA received some inquiries about specific phone numbers that people can call in the event of medical, police, and fire emergencies. In response, we put together the attached document which provides additional detail and phone numbers. The first page of the attachment is for residents of the Municipality of West Nipissing (Bertram Township).  The second page is for residents of the Unorganized District of Centre Parry Sound (the south side of the river in Hardy and Patterson Townships). 

A key distinction between the two areas is that in the Unorganized District of Centre Parry Sound there is no 911 service on land lines.  In a medical emergency, cottagers in the Unorganized District of Centre Parry Sound would need to call EMS directly and we have provided 1-800 numbers for this purpose. In a policing emergency, you would need to call the OPP directly and their central dispatch number is provided as well. 

Just a few more very important points that EMS officials asked us to stress:
- Always make sure you know or have on hand your cottage GPS coordinates and, for those in West Nipissing,  your municipal address (that's the little blue sign – for example “WB212-1”)  
- Keep them by the phone and make sure everyone (family and guests) knows where they are. 
- Educate family and guests on what to do in an emergency and where the closest land access/marina is. 
- If you are not at your cottage when you make an emergency call (for example – a cell phone from a boat) you should try to have some way to determine your GPS coordinates. 

To view the document, click here. 

Posted July 15, 2016

A major fire occurred in the downtown area of Sturgeon Falls on the evening of July 14. See 

Posted July 2, 2016
Updated July 4, 2016

The fire ban has been lifted in West Nipissing effective July 2. For related information see


June News

POSTED JUNE 21, 2016

To all Cottage owners
Welcome back for another great season. Because of the recent lack of precipitation, we have to implement a temporary Fire Ban until we have a sufficient rainfall. Yesterday (Monday June 20) we had five (5) wild fires within the area. We are still working on three. Sorry for the inconvenience. We will e-mail the association as soon as we remove the ban. Thank you for your co-operation. See related information from the North Bay Nugget at 

Crime Stoppers Doubles Rewards
Posted June 15, 2016

There have been numerous break-ins on the Upper French over the past winter and spring. As a result, Near North Crime Stoppers have doubled their rewards for information. For the press release issued June 15, click here.

French River Research
First Posted May 25, 2016

The Upper French River Cottagers Association has been asked to assist with the collection of water samples as part of a survey on the French River.

Dr. April James (Nipissing University Department of Geography, Canada Research Chair – Watershed Analysis and Modeling) and her team are looking for volunteer residents to be part of a stable water isotope survey on the French River during the summer of 2016. The goal is to collect several ‘snap-shot-in-time’ surveys of river water over the Canada Day weekend (July 2nd - 3rd), the last weekend of July (July 30th-31st) and the last weekend of August (27-28th). Stable water isotopes are increasingly included in surveys of water quality and can provide complementary information on water movement. This project will allow us to better understand the movement and cycling of water through the Sturgeon River-Lake Nipissing-French River basin.

For the letter from Dr. April James to the UFRCA, click here. .
Related Links:
The Integrative Watershed Research Centre general web site:   
French River Survey link:

How to register?
To register please complete the online sampling registration form or contact Dr. James by phone or email (contact information below). Enter your information on the form, click on the e-mail icon above the form, and an e-mail with the attachment will be set up. Enter the e-mail address below. Surveys are scheduled for the Canada Day weekend (July 2nd-3rd), the last weekend of July (July 30th-31st) and the last weekend of August (27-28th). Volunteers can sign up for one, several or all dates. Volunteers will not be directed to specific locations but will be required to note the GPS coordinates of the location. Contact the UFRCA for assistance if required. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.
Dr. April James
Canada Research Chair – Watershed Analysis and Modeling
Associate Professor, Department of Geography
Nipissing University, North Bay, ON, CA, P1B 8L7
Email:; Tel: 705-474-3450 X 4062

Sampling Instructions:
The UFRCA will also endeavour to make sampling kits available to members.  

Pictograph on Kennedy Island
Posted June 8, 2016

In the 1980s, a field archeologist with the Ontario government researched and published a paper on the pictograph located on Kennedy Island. To view the document go to History - Local Area History and scroll down to Historical Importance. Thanks to Holly Waters for discovering this document.

Tour the Okikendawt Hydro-electric generating station at Dokis
Posted June 8, 2016

Plans are being developed for the first public tours of the new hydro generating plant at Dokis. Tentative dates are June 20 and/or 22. Details will be posted when they become available. If interested, please contact   

June Newsletter

The June newsletter was distributed to members on June 2. If you did not receive it, contact

June Directors Needed
Several current Board members are retiring and we need replacements. If you would like to nominate another member or volunteer yourself, please contact the Nominating Committee via

 Annual General Meeting July 31 at Solid Comfort

The AGM is slated for Solid Comfort (Coordinates N 46.160202 W 79.980413 )  on July 31 from 10:00 a.m. to noon. New members are always welcome. Please "boat pool". For details see the AGM Poster. 

May News

 Ni   Congratulations to Dokis FN on Election Results and Hydro Project Grand Opening
Posted May 30, 2016

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Congratulations to recently elected Chief Gerry Duquette and to Deputy Chief Denise Restoule, who has been Chief of Dokis First Nation since 2006 but stepped down from that role this spring. One of her many accomplishments over the last 10 years was the successful construction of the hydro-generating station at the Chaudiere dam. On May 5, 2016, the project was officially opened. Photo supplied by Grant Hobson, UFRCA Dokis Liaison. See other photos in the Photo Gallery. Also scroll down to the  video on the hydro project.

 Register for the Dock Sale by May 25
The Dock Sale is slated for July 23, 2016. The posted deadline (May 23) for expressing interest in the event is rapidly approaching. Since May 23 falls on a Holiday, we have extended the deadline until Wednesday May 25th. As a reminder, members are asked to let Jeff Hamilton know (  that they are interested in having a sale and a few bits of information including (1) a short list of the major items they plan to sell and (2) the location of their cottage.  The seller’s information will be compiled in a brochure, complete with a map showing where all the sales are located.  The brochure will read like the garage sale section of the newspaper classifieds.  The brochure will be sent out via email to all members, and we will put printed copies and posters at various locations such as Riverview, Sandy Haven, and Starlite. Whether you’re at the cottage this weekend or just dreaming about it, think about being a host seller. Contact Jeff by May 25th to get involved in this fun UFRCA event. For more details on the July 23 Dock Sale, see Events / Dock Sale.

  It’s May, and it’s time to think about …
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 It’s May, summer will soon be here, and it’s time to think about renewing your UFRCA membership. The 2016-17 membership form is now posted on the Membership Form page. See the Membership Information page for full details. You can still send your membership form and cheque by mail, but now you can do it on-line and pay by either Interac E-Transfer from any Canadian financial institution, or by credit card using PayPal.

E-mail and real mail letters and membership forms have been sent to current members as well as many past members. The current membership year ends June 30; renew now and keep your membership active as we get into the busy summer months.

With cottage season starting soon, it’s also time to think about recycling. For the specifics on recycling at Dokis Riverview Marina and in West Nipissing, see Specific rules differ in various municipalities, so know what the policies are wherever you take your recycling articles.

Great fishing plus great scenery equals …
Posted May 8, 2016

For super French River scenery and some savvy fishing, check out this You Tube video created by John Fry.

Nipissing officially clear of ice
Posted May 6, 2016

The official date as declared in the North Bay Nugget is May 5, the same as last year. See

  Nipissing clear of ice today?
Posted May 5, 2016

The NASA satellite view shows a few small areas that could either be wispy clouds or the last remnants of ice. Otherwise, it looks clear. We will await the decision to be posted soon in the North Bay Nugget. The official date could actually be yesterday, May 4, or today.

 Lake Nipissing not quite clear of ice
Posted May 3, 2016

We learned on May 2 that there is clear sailing from the Sturgeon River to Wigwam Channel and behind Sandy Island to access the Upper French River. Ice and slush predominate in a large area from east of Sandy Island to the Manitous. Callander Bay is completely clear as is the east end of the lake near North Bay. The ice has shifted to the north side near Nipissing FN. It's predicted that the lake will be clear of ice any day. 

River Open
Posted May 1, 2016

We have heard from very reliable sources that the river was free of ice yesterday, April 30, and some early bird cottagers have been in to their cottages to get an early start on summer. On Lake Nipissing, there are areas of open water appearing, and the lake may be ice-free by mid-week.

Unfortunately, there have also been reports of break-ins. Please contact any Board member or and keep us informed of any criminal activity. We can then add pressure to OPP and WN Police to be better involved when cottagers report break-ins and thefts.

April News

Walleye Survey Underway
Posted April 30, 2016

For the North Bay Nugget article see 

 Nipissing starting to break up - Upper French partly open
Posted April 28, 2016

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This photo taken April 27 at the North Bay waterfront shows ice piled up at the shore and blackish-gray ice. The Nipissing Stewardship Council web cam  (which looks south-east from near the Sturgeon River) shows a lot of open water and white ice in the background. Iron Island is mid-photo in the distance. Today is the average date for the lake to be declared free of ice, but it will probably take several more days. 

According to Valarie at Riverview Cottages and Marina, the Upper French is open up to the narrows where there is ice. People are in at Lunge and Chaudière Lodges. Satchels Bay and Hardy Bay remain ice covered.  It is very windy and ice is moving around, so expect conditions to change over the next few days.

Nipissing Remains Ice-covered
Updated April 26, 2016

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The photo at left was taken April 26 from the end of Cranberry Trail (just south of North Bay) looking west on Lake Nipissing towards the French. Open water is evident along the shoreline. On Callander Bay, the ice is turning very dark and it may be clear of ice in a day or so. The NASA satellite view (see the link below in the March 23 posting) shows distinct gray areas indicating thinning ice. but the lake level is very high at 195.85 metres above sea level, which is in the summer operating range. There have been reports of flooding in the Lower French region. Cool and very dry weather will help alleviate the risk of flooding in the Lake Nipissing and Upper French area, but high water plus shifting ice during breakup could cause problems with docks and other shoreline structures.


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Posted April 19, 2016
Parts of the river are now open. The photo was taken by Clayton Dokis on April 19, looking upriver from Charlie's Bay. Lake Nipissing remains ice-covered and probably won't be open for several weeks. Click on photo to enlarge.

Dokis First Nation Power Generating Station on Facebook
Posted April 11, 2016

For some wonderful aerial photography of Dokis First Nation and their new power generating station view the video below.


 Photo contest entry deadline April 15
Posted April 1, 2016

The deadline for photo contest entries is April 15. So search through your photos of past summer memories and send your best three (per person) to Jeff Hamilton at Open to UFRCA members only. See all details at 

the UFRCA dock sale is slated for Saturday July 23. Details were in the March newsletter and can be seen at To be a host, contact Jeff at Hosts must be UFRCA members.


March News

When will the ice be off?
Posted March 23, 2016

With a very mild winter behind us and recent spring-like conditions, interest is starting to grow about the ice on Lake Nipissing and the Upper French. Many are probably anticipating a very early ice-off date. But don’t get too excited just yet! The Lake Nipissing region has returned to more winter-like weather and there is much snow (about 60 cm or 2 feet) in the bush. While creeks are running, there has been a slowdown with the spring freshet. The long range 14-day weather forecast (as of March 23) shows most nights in the next two weeks to below freezing, and there is no warm trend on the way.

The earliest ever recorded ice-off date was April 3, 1945, and there has never been a March date recorded. The average date is April 28, with the average range extending from April 19 to May 7. Last year’s official date was May 5.
See for the list of ice-off dates for the last 115 years.

You can keep track of the ice situation on Lake Nipissing on this NASA web site:
First, adjust the date on the scale shown at the bottom of the screen to the present and to get a view of Lake Nipissing on a clear day. (See March 20 for example.) You'll see a bit of gray ice in South Bay and Callander Bay, so the melt is starting. But the rest of the lake is very white, and the albedo or reflective quality of snow slows down heating and melting. Note that all the Great Lakes are clear of ice – quite different from last year at this time. With Georgian Bay free of ice, we can predict a warmer than average spring in this area. But the safe bet for the ice-off date on Nipissing would still be April 28: the average date. 

March Newsletter Distributed to Members
Posted March 3, 2016

The March newsletter was distributed to members on March 3. If you should have received it but did not, please contact The March 3 newsletter (and all newsletters) can be viewed in the Newsletters section found on the Members Menu.  Members must Log in first to view these pages. Please note that an e-mail address for Sandy Haven Camp has been corrected to   T T  
  B N        
New Web Site Pages
We have two new web site pages. See "Links" at the bottom of the main menu for a list of local media and information web sites which will be of interest to UFRCA cottagers and anyone in the French River and Lake Nipissing region. In "Events" see the new UFRCA Events Calendar for July and August 2016.

February News

       March Newsletter
Watch for the March 2016 newsletter coming soon.

Poor ice conditions
  Posted February 11, 2016

Authorities have issued warnings about poor ice conditions on area lakes and rivers. Read more.

 Posted February 8, 2016
Nipissing First Nation has agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to manage the fishery in Lake Nipissing. See 

January News

  Changes to Membership Form and Payment of Membership Fees
Re-posted January 23, 2016

For new or returning members, there are now two choices for submitting your membership form and paying your annual membership fees. You may fill out and complete the standard membership form and mail it with your cheque to our treasurer, or complete the on-line form and pay by either Interac e-Transfer or by Credit Card using PayPal. See the Membership Information page and the Membership Form page. Note that the present membership form is for the current year 2015-16, which ends June 30, 2016.

 Asian Carp found in Lake Erie
Posted January 5, 2016


An article on the CBC web site  indicates the invasive species Asian Carp has been found in Lake Erie. A growing population of Asian Carp has become widespread in US waterways, and a narrow barrier in Chicago between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan has been a focal point of concern for some time. See:

For the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Fact Sheet on Asian Carp species, see
The Invasive Species Centre is holding a competition for innovations on how to keep these fish out. See: 

 Water levels high as Lake Nipissing finally freezes over
Posted January 5, 2016

 December was extremely warm all across Ontario, and freeze-up was delayed almost 4 weeks later than last year when Lake Nipissing was ice-covered on December 3, 2014. Unofficially, Lake Nipissing and the Upper French may have been ice-covered on or around December 31, 2015. The bad news is that the level of Lake Nipissing rose back to the summer level through December. This may cause problems with docks in the spring.

December News

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Best wishes for 2016.

 Changes to Membership Form and Payment of Membership Fees
Posted December 17, 2015

For new or returning members, there are now two choices for submitting your membership form and paying your annual membership fees. You may fill out and complete the standard membership form and mail it with your cheque to our treasurer, or complete the on-line form and pay by either Interac e-Transfer or by Credit Card using PayPal. See the Membership Information page and the Membership Form page. Note that the present membership form is for the current year 2015-16, which ends June 30, 2016.

 Municipality of French River Raises Boundary Realignment
Posted December 2, 2015 (and featured in the December 1 Newsletter to members)

Through our West Nipissing Councillor Guy Fortier, UFRCA was informed recently that the Municipality of French River (main office in Noelville) has made an initial approach to West Nipissing (main office in Sturgeon Falls) about the possibility of redrawing their mutual boundary - a move that could potentially affect cottagers in Bertram Township. Read more here.
 December Newsletter Distributed
Posted December 1, 2015

The December newsletter was distributed to UFRCA members on December 1. If you should have received it but did not, please contact

November News

 Photo Contest 2016
Details for the 2016 annual UFRCA photo contest are now posted. See the Events page.

 Upcoming Newsletter
The next newsletter will be distributed on December 1 to current UFRCA members.

 Watkins Cottage Lightning Strike and Fire
Several photos from the July 31 lightning strike and fire at the Watkins cottage are now posted. See below and also in the Photo Gallery.

October News

 October Newsletter and Memberships 
Current members received the first newsletter of the season on October 19. Note that this was sent by e-mail to those members who have paid their membership fees for 2015-16. Returning and new members are always welcome. Membership forms are available in the Members menu at the left, but contact if you have any concerns or inquiries. Past newsletters are available for view in the Members-only section of the web site. Members must log in to view those pages.

 Draft AGM Minutes now posted
The Draft Minutes from the AGM held on August 2, 2015, have now been posted in the Members' section of the website.

Break-ins reported
Unfortunately, we have heard reports that there have been break-ins occurring in the Sandy Island and Blueberry Island areas. The police have been informed.

September News

 Closing the cottage routines - keep potential thieves in mind
Posted September 24, 2015

West Nipissing Police have sent this communication as a reminder to keep would-be thieves in mind when closing for the winter. And reduce off-season environmental damage by following many common sense suggestions. To view, click here. 

 July 31 Storm
On the afternoon of Friday July 31, a series of intense electrical storms passed through the area. Below are accounts of two lightning strikes and the resulting volunteer efforts to deal with them.

 Lightning strike and fire at the Watkins’ cottage
Posted September 8, 2015
Contributed by Amy Watkins

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On July 31, 2105, while sitting on our porch, lightning struck a tree 30 feet away from us. Flames rose immediately and we evacuated the cottage because the fire was only a couple of feet from our propane tanks. We went through the woods to my parents’ cottage to get to a phone (ours had exploded and melted from the strike). Their phone was out as well. We left our daughter and dogs to return to our cottage to see how bad things were. The flames were 6 to 8 feet high so we went into the cottage to get our passports.

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We heard a loud noise of gas escaping from the propane tanks that sounded similar to the noise of a jet engine. We returned to the woods again just as one of the tanks exploded, sending a fireball 50 feet into the air. We estimate the time between the strike and explosion was no more than 10 to 15 minutes. At this time, family and friends had heard and seen flames and had come to our aid.

Scott Jones from Riverview (while transporting people to Riverview) happened to be driving past, saw the flames, and was able to radio Riverview to get their fire pumps on the way to our cottage. Until the fire equipment and personnel arrived, we kept others away because of the potential for the other propane tanks to explode.

We had minor cottage damage including some siding and trim blown off with the strike. The phone lines scorched some places inside, a floor joist was blown apart where the outside box is attached, and the strike also started fires west of the cottage. One propane tank exploded, one “vented” and ignited, and the Dokis Fire Department stabilized the third tank.

We are thankful that no one was hurt. Thank you to all our friends and family who helped out during the event – the Allison, Stanislau, Lembke, Robinson, Sumner, Kutzner, and Marcus families, and some young men from Solid Comfort. Thank you to Scott Jones from Riverview and the Dokis FD crew: Gerry Duquette, Carl Hill, Jean-Marc Ethier, and Fire Chief Brian Lariviere.

 Fire Near West End of Sandy Island

It was the same day and the same storm that resulted in the fire at the Watkins’ cottage. Late in the afternoon/early evening on July 31, 2015, lightning struck the trees on an uninhabited island near the west end of Sandy Island not far from Wigwam. A neighbouring cottager noticed the smoke and called it in to Todd Thomas, the owner and operator of Sandy Haven Fishing Camp.  Todd and another volunteer immediately loaded the fire pump and equipment into a boat and “attended” the fire, as they say in the firefighting business. The lightning had badly damaged one tree and the adjoining trees had begun to smoulder.  The volunteers from Sandy Haven used the pump to good effect and remained on the scene to ensure there was no risk of further damage. 

As UFRCA members know, Todd/Sandy Haven Camp is one of the organizations, along with Riverview Marina and the Dokis Fire Department, that cottagers call on in time of need. In Todd’s case, he coordinates his volunteer efforts with the Municipality of West Nipissing. The Fire Department there provides the water pump and other firefighting equipment and depending on the location and availability, Todd is likely to be the first responder. Todd also provides a limited emergency first response capacity. To this end, the Municipality provides him with a defibrillator, a stretcher, and a professional quality first aid kit, and Todd brings extensive training in emergency first aid. 

This is the first full cottage season that this arrangement between West Nipissing and Sandy Haven (spurred on by the UFRCA) has been in place. The summer of 2014 was only a partial season due to delays in the delivery of equipment. Most fortunately, this first full season was a quiet one. Only a few fishhooks to remove, according to Todd.

But as with the team from Riverview and the Dokis Fire Department, this kind of volunteer service to our collective cottage community is not something that UFRCA members take for granted. We all appreciate that the “other side of the coin” to the River’s wild beauty is a degree of isolation and vulnerability. The UFRCA says thanks to Todd for his ongoing efforts and commitment.


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