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Sask. wildfire crews 'stretched' by hot start to season

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) says it’s looking to give provincial fire crews a break, but the fires raging in Nova Scotia and Alberta mean that respite could be in short supply.

“It has been challenging,” said Steve Roberts, SPSA vice-president of operations. “[The fires] have stretched our capacity to some extent.”

Roberts said the SPSA has a request out to check for the availability of out-of-province crews, but they’re cautiously optimistic about how many may be available.

“We know those might be tight now because of what’s happening in Nova Scotia and Alberta right now,” Roberts said in a media briefing Thursday morning.

Weather conditions have improved recently, with rain Wednesday night helping contain a 55-hectare fire in the community of Turnor Lake, but Roberts says the agency would like to be able to let its crews and volunteers take a break.

“This fire won’t be over anytime soon. We have a full season in front of us.”

There are currently no crews from outside the province working in Saskatchewan, SPSA says. Last week, the agency contracted some water bombers out of Quebec but they have since returned.

Roberts says the SPSA predominantly contracts locals from the community to run heavy equipment in support of its fire suppression efforts.

While rain has helped suppress the Turnor Lake fire, just west of there some residents in La Loche have been ordered to evacuate a second time as a wildfire on its eastern outskirts has reignited.

Those with a high risk of health complications from smoke have been ordered out, with a voluntary evacuation order for the rest of the village.

SPSA says crews are working to set up hose lines along the northwest corner of the fire, and helicopters are delivering buckets of water to that area of concern. A water bladder will also be set up along Highway 955, which leads north out of the community.

At-risk individuals are also being evacuated from the area around Dillon, St. George’s Hill, Michel Village, Patuanak and English River First Nation, SPSA says.

A fire southeast of Pinehouse Lake has caused the evacuation of the Besnard Correctional Camp, and those living at Deschambault Lake have also been forced to evacuate due to a 9,000 hectare fire south of the area. The SPSA says good progress is being made on that fire. Top Stories

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