Lightning sparks more wildfires in northern Sask. as evacuees flee
Hot and dry conditions across the province likely won’t improve in the next few days as several northern communities evacuate due to nearby wildfires, according to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA).
Steve Roberts, vice-president of operations, said 122 wildfires are active as of Wednesday, up from 107 on Tuesday.
“There will be isolated storm systems that will pass through, nothing significant. These small systems that we’ve been seeing for the last number of days are producing slight amounts of precipitation, but they are also producing lightning, which is giving us new fire starts,” said Roberts.
“We do not see any significant reprieve in weather conditions over the next three to five days.”
He said there’s been 354 wildfires in Saskatchewan so far this year, which is 146 above the five-year average.
Roberts said the SPSA is working with northern leaders to get more trained firefighters on the ground, as well as looking at bringing in crews from provincial fire departments and across Canada if necessary.
Roberts said there are “several fires of concern,” including the Lock fire near Dillon, St. George’s Hill and Michel Village.
The SPSA is working with the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) to provide emergency services, such as food and shelter, to 48 people in North Battleford who had to flee the Lock fire, said Director of Emergency and Crisis Support Joan Hyrcyck. There are also evacuees in Lloydminster.
The SPSA helped coordinate transportation for evacuees from Southend, she said.
There are also fires near Grandmother’s Bay, Stanley Mission, Black Lake and Stony Rapids. The Rabbit fire is posing a risk to Highway 2 North south of La Ronge and the Harding fire to Highway 106.
The province is continuing to work with the MLTC and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation.
"We are providing community leadership in all of these locations real-time fire information to help coordinate with them, and also to give them quality information to make decisions and help them prepare. It will be a local leadership decision should they decide to evacuate,” said Roberts.
Richard Ben, tribal chief of the MLTC, said the Canadian Red Cross is helping them through a full community evacuation in Buffalo River Dene Nation.
About 600 people have relocated to multiple communities, including Lloydminster and Meadow Lake.
Ben said other MLTC members are self-evacuating to Lloydminster. He said 188 people in 74 households have registered as of Tuesday.
“We’re just taking it day-by-day and just hoping everything gets better – hoping for rain,” he said.
“The smoke and the fire is getting pretty close.”
Ben thanked chiefs, emergency coordinators and the Canadian Red Cross for making the evacuations a smooth process.
“I just owe it all to the frontline workers, our emergency management operation team at MLTC, along with our staff. We’re doing as much as we can and we just appreciate the Canadian Red Cross for stepping in and taking a big load off of our backs.”
The fire ban for provincial parks and Crown lands will remain in place for at least another three to five days, said Roberts.