Raging Wildfire Threatens 40-Year-Old Dream
- Blog Post by: Tony Capecchi
- September 10, 2012 - 10:26 PM
One year ago––as the raging flames of a historically uncontrollable wildfire encircled Harald and Ann Lohn and torched their family’s Ontario fly-in fishing outpost camps––it looked like today might not arrive. Mother Nature nearly wiped many of the outpost camps at KaBeeLo Lodge off the map.
The fires, the worst to ravage Ontario’s vulnerable wilderness in 50 years, laid siege to 1.6 million acres last summer. Two of KaBeeLo’s 13 outpost camps burnt to the ground, another half dozen were shut down with fishing parties getting evacuated for safety.
The Lohns refused to leave; instead the couple transformed their base lodge into command central for 100 firefighters and worked 20 hours a day to provide food and housing for those risking their lives to squelch the flames.
The Lohns survived. And so today did arrive: the 40th anniversary of the Lohn family running KaBeeLo Lodge.
“Running the lodge is a way of life,” Harald said. “You have to embrace all aspects of the entire operation.”
Harald’s cousin opened KaBeeLo in 1972, running it for a decade before selling it to Ann and Harald, who in a previous life ran the welfare system for the state of Maryland. Today, Harald and Ann can’t image life without KaBeeLo, and neither can their children, who grew up at the lodge and lived there into their young 20s. Their son remains heavily involved with the lodge today; watching his family’s float planes as a teenager inspired him to pursue a career in aviation.
And in the end, it was aviators who helped save KaBeeLo last year when flames tried to claim the now-famous fly-in. A host of planes, as well as 17 helicopters, dumped a staggering 28 million gallons of water on Ontario’s burning woods.
The images are unforgettable, and the Lohns’ dream––however unlikely––remains alive: 40 years … and counting.
© 2013 Star Tribune