It's been a horrible season for more than 200 outfitters. The pandemic meant American visitors couldn't come, which means 20 months without income for many operators.
More than 40 per cent of lodges didn't even bother getting ready to open for the year, as the $450 million industry faced a desolation.
Then came Red Lake Fire 49. Steve Smith at Sunset Country Adventures had just welcomed his new daughter -- and his undergoing his fourth round of chemo for Stage 3 cancer -- when evacuees started knocking on his door in the middle of the night.
He says it was just the right thing to do, when he let them in.
"I'm in a battle," he said yesterday, understating the case.
Since many of the evacuees had only the clothes on their backs -- and they were without food and water -- Smith spent hundreds of dollars on credit to make sure those in need had something to eat and drink.
"We are accommodating anyone we can, whether we can make a buck or not," he said.
When all is said and done, Smith expects about 40 evacuees at Sunset Country Adventures.
Lions in Vermilion Bay, along with the local Co-op, Sysco and Eacom employees have stepped up to offer assistance.
An evacuation centre in Dryden has been set up, and evacuees have also been flown to Thunder Bay. Some drove to Kenora and Winnipeg for shelter.
The Ear Falls Legion has been active in helping those in need, along with local businesses. Emergency management Ontario has been working with local governments to assist in tracking the needs of evacuees.
"It's been a horrible year for operators, but dozens of us stayed up for 36 hours to get our resorts ready to help those in need," Smith continued.
"Our season is a loss, but even though it costs us more money we don't have, it helps people that are basically homeless," he said.
Clark's Northern Lights off Hwy. 105 had more than 100 evacuees yesterday. A shipment of food from the Salvation Army in Kenora arrived this morning. Meagan Clark said some evacuees hadn't eaten since Monday.