STEPHENVILLE CROSSING — Damian Keating was out enjoying a ride on quad at his father's Wheeler's Brook cabin last Friday when he came upon the forest fire that is responsible for destroying some 13 hectares of forest in the area of Southwest Brook.
On Monday the fire was listed as being contained.
Provincial fire duty officer Steve Balsom said 24 firefighters were still on the ground dealing with hot spots and were being supported by a helicopter dumping water from the air.
Damian, his wife Sabrina and their daughter Paige, 7, arrived in Stephenville Crossing from Fort McMurray last Wednesday. On Thursday he and Sabrina headed to the cabin for a couple of nights, while Paige stayed with her grandparents, Randy and Joanne Keating.
Damian and Sabrina had not gone far from the cabin on Friday afternoon when they saw a blaze of black smoke go up in the air and flames come up behind it.
Damian said his initial thought when he and Sabrina encountered the fire was it was going to be bad.
"Because it didn't make sense for a fire to be burning where it was burning," said Damian.
He said that day there was no one in the area, which is usually so quiet that any amount of activity is noticeable.
Getting Sabrina somewhere safe became his first concern and having worked on some controlled forestry burns in the past, Damian said he knew that place would be the beach.
"I brought my wife down to the beach ... and I went into the trail and got up quite a ways and realized it was indeed a forest fire."
He turned around and on the way back out the trail met up with a few locals and helped to move a snowmobile, quad and boat to the beach.
"Basically by then it was a full on forest fire then. It was raging pretty bad at that point."
But Damian wasn't too concerned for their safety.
"Knowing I could go out two ways. I could go out along the beach area or I could go out along the woods trail. It wasn't any imminent danger anyway," he said.
"We knew we had the water at our backs. So, worst-case scenario you walk out into the water and wait for someone to get you."
Sabrina, on the other hand, was pretty scared.
Damian said being from Alberta she's had no experience with forest fires and the cabin is one of her favourite places to go.
She was quite upset at the thought it could be lost.
Damian had called his father after encountering the fire to find out if there was anything valuable he wanted removed from the cabin.
Randy said getting the call left him with a lot of concern.
"Got us kind of nervous, so then we ended up going from where we were to find out where they were at."
The cabin was one thing, he said, but knowing his son and daughter-in-law were in there was what really bothered him.
After meeting up with Damian and Sabrina, Randy took the quad and then went back to the cabin to make sure no one else was out there. Damian and Sabrina continued on out in truck. They also took the boat he had earlier helped tow to the beach out to keep safe for its owner.
On Monday Randy was happy to report that none of the cabins in the area were destroyed by the fire.
In fact, his own cabin was being used as a first aid base for crews still on the ground.
He was also quite relieved that things didn't get any worse.
"It was really intense on the first because the wind was blowing easterly and it was heading right towards our cabins. But then I guess to the grace of God it switched from easterly to southeast and it blew over away from our cabins, but it was really close," said Randy.
"It's a good thing that the water bombers got there in time. It pretty much kept flooding around our cabins to get the fire to move elsewhere there."
"The water bomber drivers are the people they really need to thank because those guys are phenomenal pilots. They were putting the foam right where it needed to be every time."