Paul and Anita Wiens, and brother Matthew and Sharnell Wiens, purchased Viking Lodge up in Cranberry-Portage a number of years ago.  For those who have enjoyed the beauty of the northern forests and lakes may be familiar with The Pas, travelling through Cranberry-Portage, on your way to Flin Flon.  

Last week we watched video footage of the fire that raged close to the community of Cranberry-Portage closing in on Viking Lodge with a relentless wind, thwarting every effort by firefighters to contain the inferno.

Residents of the community were given a 2-hour evacuation notice, but that changed quickly and suddenly that became ten minutes.

The Wiens families sat in their vehicles with laptops, passports and pictures all the while watching the flames envelope the forest so near to their lodge travelling closer and closer to their cabins. "I can't even explain the emotions," shares Anita. "We were finally told we had to leave. We couldn't sit here anymore and watch. So, we left and checked into an Airbnb at Rocky Lake and sat there wondering what's going on.  Are we going to have anything left to come home to. When we left, we didn't think that there would be anything left of the lodge." 

"The fire was within a kilometer of us and coming right for us," she adds. "They were saying that it was travelling at more than 2 kilometers an hour. That's how fast the fire was travelling."

The next morning Paul and Matthew travelled back to Cranberry-Portage only to be stopped by the roadblock.  However, the extra hands were needed, and the two Wiens brothers assisted the firefighters in dousing the buildings and surrounding properties with sprinklers.

"By now the firefighters were putting sprinklers on every house in town," she explains. "The fire department had started at the lodge here and so by the time they got here the sprinklers were going.  It's unbelievable how many fire fighters and crews were going, putting sprinklers on absolutely every building in town here.

As the hydro was down, lines and poles being damaged or burnt, the fire department brought in generators to pump lake water onto the buildings from the rooftops, to drench the buildings and yards with water.

Wiens says the first night it was too windy and too smoky making it impossible for the water bombers to fight the fire.  She says when the wind changed direction the firefighters could finally take steps to do their work.  "As soon as the winds started pushing the other way and the winds calmed down a bit, they could lower the work crews down into there and start making barriers, and stuff like that."

"It was amazing.  At one point there were about 200 firefighters here all the way from New Brunswick, Brandon, Winnipeg, Ontario. We're just so thankful," she adds with emotion.

On Monday of this week the Wiens families were able to return to their homes at Viking Lodge, along with their fellow residents of Cranberry-Portage.  The helicopters are still flying overhead along with the water-bombers as the fire still creeps along, however it is moving in the opposite direction away from the residential areas.

Hydro has now been restored with some work to take place this weekend to replace poles and damaged equipment. 

"Right now, the fire is considered controlled here as it's burning in another direction," shares Anita.  "On Friday we are having a large appreciation night.  The town is putting on a Bar-B-Que for all the volunteers and for all the people who helped in every which way that they could."

"It was through lots of prayers and through the hand of God," shares Anita. "It was amazing to see so many people praying and reaching out.  All I can say is that it was a miracle that we're still here operating.  It's amazing."

Please listen to more with Anita Wiens below as she shares more on this harrowing experience of the past two weeks.