SASKATOON -- Firefighters are battling a wildfire in the Fort à la Corne provincial forest, east of Prince Albert.

“We were out and about yesterday. The smoke column was quite high which was directly related to the amount of heat and we could see there was movement,” said Walter Matieyshen, a retired forest firefighter who lives about eight kilometres south of the area.

The fire spread rapidly on Thursday due to high winds, according to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA). 

The wildfire management branch said the fire now covers around 5,300 hectares of land. 

“That area has a lot of mistletoe, diseased forest so in terms of what it’s doing, it’s probably positive from the forest point of view. But it’s also probably moving towards the mine sites so there are values at risk along the way, or potentially,” Matieyshen said.

There is no word on if the Rio Tinto Star Diamond mining project is or could be affected, but the SPSA said nearby industries are aware of the situation.

The SPSA told CTV News it is “responding to the fire with dozers, ground crews, helicopters and air tankers. All efforts are being made to protect the values in the area.” 

The provincial wildfire map said this is one of two active fires in the province. 

There have been 30 wildfires to date this season. 

Some nearby communities are experiencing air quality concerns because of the fire, SPSA said. 

James Smith Cree Nation has evacuated a small number of community members for precautionary reasons. 

Right now there are eight evacuees staying at a hotel in Prince Albert, according to Trish Alcorn, executive director of communications for the Ministry of Social Services.

She said Emergency Social Services and the Canadian Red Cross are preparing for further evacuees should the First Nation choose time evacuate more people.

People in Prince Albert, Shipman, and other nearby communities have reported seeing smoke from the wildfire.