SHAWANAGA FIRST NATION - After three days away on the road, local
entertainer Deb Misener-Jones was glad to be back in Shawanaga.
15 minutes to flee.
Deb Misener-Jones stands alongside a van full of her belongings, including her guitar and 20-year-old cockatiels, in Parry Sound after fleeing her home as a forest fire approached Tuesday morning.
“When I got back, I was thinking about how much I really love my home,”
she reflected, a few hours after being evacuated by OPP and the
Shawanaga Band Council.
The morning of July 24 started like any other workday for Misener-Jones
who works part-time as an administrative assistant at the Shawanaga
Healing Centre. Around 11:30 a.m. she learned the house beside her
neighbour’s home - just three-quarters of a kilometre away - was
engulfed in flames.
When she arrived in her driveway, OPP and a member of the Band Council
advised her they were evacuating the whole community and that she had 15
minutes to gather her belongings.
“It really made me think about what’s important,” she commented
quietly, while sitting at a picnic table at Market Square Park. “It’s
not the money, not the jewelry.”
While her husband, Doug Jones, was outside dealing with highly flammable
belongings and packing up the two adult dogs and four 10-day-old
puppies, Misener-Jones’ first thought was of the two cockatiel birds
that she began raising as chicks 20 years ago.
“You learn what it’s like to be told you’ve only got ten minutes to take
everything that’s important to you and that you might lose everything,”
After the birds, her first priority was her guitar.
“It’s been with me nearly 40 years. It’s my source of pleasure, my
emotional crutch,” says Misener-Jones, who is a recent Parry Sound Idol.
“It’s irreplaceable and with me all the time.”
She also took two irreplaceable violins, her hard drive with all of her
work files, her costumes, PA system and equipment ¬– almost everything
she’d need to continue to work if she couldn’t go back home.
Misener-Jones also grabbed her passport, identification, wallet and
other important papers. Her suitcase was conveniently still packed from
being on the road.
“You pack the things you’ll need if you might not be coming back,” she
“It was a relief for me to see that everyone in the community got out
and was accounted for, because the lives are really what’s important,”
said Misener, who remained in constant prayer since realized the fire
was a serious threat to homes and the community. “And now that we are
out, we hope for the best.”
As of noon Wednesday, July 25 the community remained empty with a
skeleton crew at the Band Office.
The two-hectare brush fire is still active, but contained, said a band
No one was injured in the fire and community members were billeted out
with residents of Wasauksing First Nation or at area hotels for the