Fire leaves Esprit Rafting base camp in ruins

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Esprit Rafting’s base camp was completely destroyed by fire, May 20. Four fire departments responded and were able to save the youth hostel and cabins on the grounds.

Gaetan Forgues & Allyson Beauregard

DAVIDSON – At 4 pm, May 20, the Mansfield Fire Department responded to a call


Esprit Rafting’s base camp was completely destroyed by fire, May 20. Four fire departments responded and were able to save the youth hostel and cabins on the grounds.

Gaetan Forgues & Allyson Beauregard

DAVIDSON – At 4 pm, May 20, the Mansfield Fire Department responded to a call
from Esprit Rafting. According to owner Jim Coffey, he was on the river retrieving a kayak when he saw smoke rising from the building; he paddled back as fast as he could, but it was too late. Four fire departments (Mansfield, Fort-Coulonge, Waltham,
and Campbell’s Bay-Litchfield) battled the flames and kept the fire from the youth hostel and cabins on the grounds. The main building was insured; the fire’s cause is yet to be determined, although one rumour places the origin in a pizza oven.
Musician J.R. Griffith arrived from Pakenham to perform at Esprit that evening, and reported that he hardly had time to move his car before the building was engulfed by flames. In under an hour, the wooden building burned to the ground. Griffith added that the staff acted quickly and professionally, accounting for everyone by the time the fire trucks had arrived.
Coffey remained helping at the scene, and assured everyone “this is not the end!” Coffey’s wide reputation and connections brought support from around the world. To begin the rebound, he invited everyone for a Sunday sunset along
the Ottawa by the Esprit ruins; over a hundred people brought their support, stories and memories, while musician Upstream Dave, with Christopher Doyle on drums, entertained the crowd voluntarily.
That Sunday, Coffey told the crowd, “Nothing has ended. This is a very bad chapter, but we will continue; a new chapter begins. It’s been 25 years since we began with only one guide (Neil Murray) and myself. Today we have a large team of trained guides, among the best in the world.” Coffey repeated his intention to rebuild, and noted that the fire will not disrupt any tours
or training already scheduled.
“This company demonstrates that it’s possible for small businesses in our region to grow and be known worldwide,” said Gaston Allard, who attended the sunset get-together. “It’s sad. Not only have we lost another historic building, but several jobs,” added Louise Lapierre, a Mansfield resident.
“Esprit was a wonderful place; we met people from every part of the world,” said Michel Danis from Gatineau, who attended the party.
An investigation into the cause of the fire continues.